June 13, 2024

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Everything for Science: A podcast about forgotten female scientists

Everything for Science: A podcast about forgotten female scientists

Many Dutch female scientists in the last century devoted their lives to science, making important discoveries, but receiving no credit for them.

Who were these women? What motivated them and what obstacles did they have to overcome? Science journalist Ida Heinzmann examines the life stories of five of these women in a five-part podcast. In the archives and in conversations with relatives and associates, they discover that prejudices and male opposition, but sometimes also selflessness and love stand in the way of their careers.

Everything for Science is a podcast produced by NTR, NPO Listening, and the Academic Heritage Foundation, and made possible by financial support from the Wilhelmina Drucker Foundation.

The five episodes revolve around the lives of astronomer Elsa van Dien (1914-2007), botanist and geneticist Tenny Tams (1871-1947), chemistry and radiation expert Antonia Corvesi (1899-1978), and orthotist Ida Fry (1909-2003). Caroline Blecker (1897-1985). Everything for Science can be listened to from 23 June 2024 via the NPO free listening app and other podcast platforms.

About the manufacturer
Ida Heinzmann studied Physics and Astronomy at the UvA, specializing in making science accessible to a wide audience and has worked on NEMO Kennislink, the NTR programs “Het Klokhuis” and “De Kennis van Nu” and currently on the science program “Focus”. So this podcast is part of Podcast Focus. Ida previously made the podcast The Cosmos of Pannekoek, about astronomer Anton Pannekoek.

Episode 1: The pure fascination with the stars
Elsa Van Dien (1914-2007) is about to travel to the prestigious Harvard University when World War II breaks out. Elsa is a talented astronomer and will be the first Dutch woman to receive a doctorate from Harvard. But war throws a spanner into the works. Because of her Jewish origins, she has to hide and disappear from sight. After the war, she earned a doctorate from Harvard University and her career enjoyed a glorious start, but that changed when she married fellow astronomer Gil Bruno van Alpada. Since then it has rarely been published. Meanwhile, her husband’s work doubles.

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Episode Two: Internal Conflict
Botany and geneticist Tine Thames (1871-1947) had an amazing career in science: she even became Groningen’s first female professor. This is in a field that is still in its infancy. But it is also a field with a dark side. Because alongside genetics, eugenics also appears, with experiments being conducted to create a superior human. What do Tiny Tams think about this? With some trepidation, Ida Heinzmann searches the archives that should provide a definitive answer. At the same time, there is another pressing question: Why are male scientists given equal credit for the research to which they have contributed?

Episode Three: Theoretical Happiness
In the first half of the twentieth century, science was one of the few ways for women to pursue a career. Antonia Corvezi (1899-1978) deliberately chose this life path. As a chemistry student in Delft, she quickly became fascinated by radioactivity, a new and very exciting field of research. Although she became an authority in the field and even worked in the laboratory of the famous Marie Curie, she was repeatedly passed over for a professorship. After almost twenty years, the reward finally came and she became the first female professor at TU Delft. But there is a questionable merit to this appointment.

Episode 4: Faith in Science
An example of the world’s forgotten fate is that of osteopath Ida Fry (1909-2003), also known as Sister Judea, because in addition to being a scientist, she was also a nun for a time. She is fascinated by autistic children and wrote about it as early as 1939. One of the children she treats is four-year-old Sim. She monitors the boy and provides him with treatment, resulting in Sim making clear progress in his development. Ida Fry is one of the first scientists to publish articles on autism. However, in historiography we see the names of many male “discoverers” of autism, but rarely her name. how is that possible? How did things end with Sim?

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Episode 5: Control is in your hands
Brilliant physicist, businesswoman, war hero, Carolyn Blecker (1897-1985) is everything. Being bold and self-confident, she founded her own company after earning her PhD: a scientific instrument manufacturer. In the 1930s it grew into a thriving company. During the war it became a place where hidden Jews found safe refuge. Caroline Blecker worked with physicist Fritz Zernecke for years, which led to a groundbreaking invention: a microscope with which the process of cell division could be studied for the first time. And he gets a Nobel Prize for it. But how big is its role in reality?