The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Posts tagged with: Science History
To celebrate International Migratory Bird Day on May 9th, we will be releasing recently digitized specimen drawings by ornithologist Robert Ridgway (1850-1929.) Ridgway's career with the Smithsonian began in 1864 when he wrote asking for help identifying a bird. As they say, the rest is history. Starting in 1869, Ridgway became curator at the Smithsonian's United States National Museum and remained in that job until his death in 1929 (more about Ridgway's life here.)
Ridgway's work is still significant today. He is considered one of the iconic figures in color dictionaries that gave people studying the natural world a common vocabulary for describing the color of flora and fauna. This was very important work prior to photographic technology, and looks remarkably similar to the Pantone books graphic designers use today! Ridgway wrote a short color dictionary in 1886 at the same time as he completed work on a set of rules and guidelines for naming birds. In 1912, he self-published "Color Standards and Color Nomenclature," a compilation of 1,115 colors.
Throughout May, we will release 509 newly digitized scans of his incredibly rich specimen drawings of North American birds to the Flickr Commons. There are even more on this website. We will also be asking for your help in transcribing some of the notes found on his drawings so we can make all the information contained in these works useful and findable to admirers and researchers today.
- Record Unit 7167: Robert Ridgway Papers, circa 1850s-1919, Smithsonian Institution Archives
Cue the music! We invite you to our third "She Blinded Me with Science" Women in Science Wikipdia Edit-a-thon III.
As was the case for the last two edit-a-thons, you can participate both in-person at the Archives, and on-line by joining us in a Google Hangout and etherpad (links to come on the event page linked above.) By participating, you will receive a tour of the Archives, a talk on popular media's role in the history of women in science, an introduction for beginners on editing in Wikipedia, coffee & lunch (if you join us in-person,) and the satisfaction of writing a female scientist into digital history.
In years past, we have focused on women in the history of science which has resulted in the creation of more than 50 new articles on groundbreaking geologists, anthropologists, botanists and more. Let's take a look at some of these women:
Ursula B. Marvin, planetary geologist from the Harvard-Smithsonian’s Astrophysical Observatory, won several awards for her research (1997 Lifetime Achievement Award from Women in Science and Engineering, 1986 History of Geology Award from the Geological Society of America, and the 2005 Sue Tyler Friedman Medal), and had an Antarctic mountain named after her.
Ornithologist Roxie Laybourne basically founded the field of forensic ornithology. Laybourne was very interested in aeronautics and even took an aeronautics correspondence course after not being able to attend aviation school because she was female. She used the Smithsonian's vast bird collection and scanning electron microscopy to identify birds involved in plane crashes. She helped to improve air travel safety working in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
For this year, we have added 35 more female scientists to our to-do list. Some of them were uncovered by our digital volunteers while transcribing scientific field books in the Smithsonian's Transcription Center. The list also contains many current female scientists at the Smithsonian who are working on everything from the conservation of wild canids to high-energy astrophysics. Join us in writing these women into digital history.
- Sign up for the "She Blinded Me with Science III," Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-a-thon III, Friday, March 27.
- Roxie Collie Laybourne: Remembering a Groundbreaker, Bigger Picture Blog
- Documenting a Geologist's Adventures, Bigger Picture Blog
- Women in Science Wednesdays, Bigger Picture Blog
- Science Service Records at the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Today is "National Hat Day." As a fan of stylish head coverings, I think it is a great idea. And as a fan of extraordinary female scientists, I thought of some unusual headgear examples from the photographs in the Smithsonian Institution Archives collections.
At The Bigger Picture, we typically celebrate these women for their professional accomplishments, such as in the weekly Women in Science Wednesday posts and more in-depth during Women's History Month. Today, however, let us also celebrate their sense of style and the many types of hats they donned.
The style award must go to cancer researcher, Elise Depew Strang L'Esperance, M.D. Dr. L’Esperance was a pioneer in cancer treatment for women and in 1951 she and Catherine Macfarlane were joint recipients of the prestigious Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award. Her elegant, sweeping hat coincidentally echoed the design of the statue atop the award.
Fieldwork in archeology, geology, and biology often involves many days and weeks in the sun. My favorite practical example is the wide-brimmed hat of science journalist, Emma Reh, who reported on archaeological expeditions in Mexico during the 1930s. The brim of what appears be a leather hat would have certainly protected her from the intense Mexican sun.
Whether you're a hat fan or not, you can appreciate the amazing things these women accomplished. If you are a fan, delight in the fashion below!
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