Women Astronomers

girl-looking-through-a-telescope-pietro-rotariThis painting of a young woman looking through a telescope is by Pietro Rotari, an Italian painter of the Baroque period.  He was born in Verona.  His career took him from place and he died in 1762 at the age of 55 in St Petersburg where he had traveled to paint for the Russian court.

He painted mostly women–some famous and his work was noted for its realism and beauty.  His art is showcased on this site.  This one struck me, though, because it is of a woman who is expressing and interest in science, specifically, astronomy.  During Rotari’s lifetime, there were notable women astronomers such as Maria Margaretha Kirch, a German who believed that she deserved an education equivalent to that given to young boys in her time.

At an early age, she showed an interest in astronomy and seized the opportunity to study with Christoph Arnold, a self-taught astronomer who worked as a farmer in Sommerfeld, near Leipzig.  She became his unofficial apprentice and later his assistant, living with him and his family.  She married the famous German astronomer and mathematician, Gottfried Kirch.

Maria was the first woman to discover a comet yet the Academy which she had made dedicated two decades of her life making it one of the foremost centres of astronomy, abandoned her after her husband died.  The academy turned down her request for her son to be appointed astronomer and that she be only his assistant. The institute was reluctant to set a precedent and feared ridicule from other institutions.  Maria spent 18 months petitioning the royal court for the position but received a final rejection in 1712.  Bitterly disappointed, she wrote in the preface to one of her publications that a woman could become “as skilled as a man at observing and understanding the skies”.

However, despite the disappointments she encountered in her career, her publications drew the recognition she deserved.  They included her observations on the Aurora Borealis (1707), a pamphlet on the conjunction of the sun with Saturn and Venus (1709), and a pamphlet in which she predicted a new comet (1711).

Nicole-Reine Lepaute was a French astronomer and Mathematician.  Her father was a valet for Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans, the wife of Louis I of Spain.  Nicole was described as precocious and intelligent, being mostly self taught who stayed up all night “devouring” books and read every book in the library.  She married Jean-André Lepaute, a royal clockmaker in the Luxembourg Palace.

At her suggestion and together with Jean-André, constructed a clock with an astronomical function.  The clock was presented to the French Academy of Science in 1753, where it was inspected and approved by Jérôme Lalande, the same man who once said of Nicole, that even as a child “she had too much spirit not to be curious”  She later worked on a book with him and her husband although she didn’t receive authorship.

Lalande recommended that she and along with mathematician, French mathematician, astronomer, and geophysicist,  Alexis Clairault calculate both the predicted return of Halley’s Comet and the attraction of Jupiter and Saturn of the Halley’s comet.  In November 1758, the team presented their conclusion that the comet would arrive on 13 April 1759.  The actual arrival of the comet was 13 March 1759.  Not bad for a prediction and as a result of their calculations, that was the first time scientists had successfully predicted when the comet would cross the point of the comet orbit closest to the Sun.

Sadly, Clairault didn’t recognize Nicole did not recognize her work at all in his work which greatly upset Lalande.  He considered her the “most distinguished female French astronomer ever.”  He acknowledged her help in an article.  Good for him.

Nicole was again a part of Lalande’s team.  This time she worked with him to calculate the ephemeris of the transit of Venus.  While it is not recorded what her contribution to this project was, in 1761, she she was acknowledged by being inducted as an honorary member of the distinguished Scientific Academy of Béziers.   The pair collaborated for fifteen years on the Academy of Science’s annual guides for astronomers and navigators by developing ephemerides: tables that predict the location of the stars on each day of the year.

After her death, Lalande wrote about her contributions to astronomy. In 1762, Lepaute calculated the exact time of a solar eclipse which occurred on 1 April 1764 and wrote an article in which she gave a map of the eclipse’s extent in 15-minute intervals across Europe and predicted the time and percentage each are in Europe would experience.  And for the years 1774-1784, she calculated the ephemeris of the Sun, the Moon and the planets.

Both Maria Margaretha Kirch and Nicole-Reine Lepaute contributed greatly to science and has made it possible for women of all ages, color, nationalities to follow in their footsteps.  Today, we want to take this time to recognize them for their groundbreaking work and give them the credit they deserve.

 

Sources:  The Woman Gallery; Wikipedia; Epigenesys; Encyclopedia; AstroChix

Painting With Phil

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One of the things I enjoy doing with Phil since we retired is painting.  During the summer, we set up an easel in the backyard and try to paint whatever tickles our fancy.  Art is our passion.  I guess it’s because we met in Art class in high-school.

Today, we are painting my rose bush.  While Phil makes the bold brush strokes, I fill in the details.  It’s shaping up nicely and our grandson, Josh is impressed.  When our masterpiece is done, we’ll frame it and hang above the fireplace.

This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, bold. If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.

No Aptitude

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Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

 

“Why can’t your painting be beautiful like the rest of these?” Jonah’s mother demanded.

“I’m not good at painting,” Jonah replied and was rewarded with a censorious look.

“That’s because you don’t put much effort into it.  How do you expect to be good at something when you don’t try hard enough at it?  I’m sure the kids who painted these tried hard.  And, I don’t know why yours is up here.  It looks out of place.”

Mrs. Richards bristled but she tried to remain calm and professional.  “All of the pictures are put up, Mrs. Marshall,” she said.  “I don’t want any of the children to feel left out.  Not all children are artists.  Jonah is excellent at Math and Science.”

Mrs. Marshall didn’t look impressed.  “He can be excellent at Art too if he were to put his mind to it.”

“As I mentioned, not all children have an aptitude for Art…”

“My other son has an aptitude for every subject, Mrs. Richards.

“I’m sure he does, Mrs. Marshall, but Jonah isn’t his brother.  We really shouldn’t compare children, especially siblings.”

“Why don’t you stick to teaching and leave me to sort out my son?” was the retort.

 

200 Words

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

His Muse

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Photo by Sue Vincent

The painting was almost complete.  He just had to add a few touches.  Painting landscapes was never his thing but he had been forced to paint them since…He tossed the paintbrush down and got up.  He walked over to the window and stared out into the street below.  It was quiet now.  It was Sunday.  Almost everyone was in church.  He had stopped attending Sunday mass three years ago.  He had stopped doing a lot of things three years ago.  Three years ago she had stood right there by the door, ready to removed her coat when her cell rang.  He had no idea who called her but after she ended the call, she grabbed her knapsack and said, “I have to go but I will be back later,” before she pulled open the door and rushed out.

He waited all day for her to return or to call but neither was forthcoming.  Three years later and she hadn’t returned.  He had no idea where she was.  Maybe she went back to her home in Benin.  She was the reason why he stopped painting people and started painting landscapes.  He had broken his own rule of never mixing business with pleasure.  She was supposed to be his muse–that was all.  He had painted hundreds of women before and not once did any of them stir any passions in him.  He was immune to them.  To him there were just muses.

Then, he met her one day at the gallery where his work was on display.  She was eighteen at the time.  Her youth was so refreshing.   She wasn’t beautiful or even pretty and her eyes seemed too large for her small face but she intrigued him.   He wanted to paint her right then and there.  There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that she was going to be his next muse.  After they left the gallery, he took her for a cappuccino.  She was a bit hesitant at first although she was flattered that he wanted to paint her but he was very persuasive.

She turned out to be the perfect muse, inspiring him to produce his best work.  He churned out painting after painting.   She sat there day after day, still as a statue.  He supposed that it was gradual but one day he realized that he that he had fallen for her–of all he foolhardy things to do.  He was twice her age, for pity’s sake.  He thought of finding another muse to replace her but he couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing her again.  She had brought light and joy into his otherwise dull existence.  Life without her would be intolerable.  He didn’t replace her but it became increasingly hard to paint because he couldn’t concentrate.  Instead of painting her, he wanted to take her in his arms and…

He leaned forward, his palms flat on the window seat, his tortured gaze scanned the horizon.  She was out there somewhere.  His life was empty.  There was a great big chasm and his heart ached every time he remembered how she had literally run out of his life.  He never got another muse.  No one could replace her.  Oh, Johari, my inspiration, my grand passion, my torment.

He heard a sound behind him and turned.  His face became ashen when he saw her standing there.  If she didn’t blink, he would have imagined that she was an illusion.  All sorts of emotions churned inside him.  His hands curled into tight fists as he tried to hold them in check.  Part of him wanted to take her in his arms and lavish her with kisses while the other part wanted to lash out at her for the misery she had put him through.

“I came back, Adriel,” she said, moving closer.

He didn’t budge.  “Yes, three years later.  Where have you been all this time?”

“I’ve been in Benin.  That day when I was here with you, I got a call from an uncle that my father had fallen ill and that I was needed home right away.  I got the first flight out of London.  I helped my mother to look after him until he recovered.  My mother asked me to stay until she could afford to hire a private nurse.  I tried calling you but there wasn’t any answer.  I think your cell was off.  I wrote to you while I was in Benin but you never answered.  Adriel, you must know that only a family emergency would make me leave you.  All the time I was away, I thought about you and missed you.  I wondered why you didn’t write me.  I thought you were out of the country or busy with gallery showings or—that you had met someone.”

He quickly closed the distance between them.  “I’ve been here all this time,” he told her.  “Missing you and wondering where you were.  I had my phone turned off and I never received any of your letters.”

“So, there isn’t another woman…?”

He shook his head vigorously.  “No!” Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her into his arms.  “I couldn’t be with anyone else even if I wanted to.  I love you, Johari.”  He covered her face with kisses, unable to help himself.

She hugged him tightly about his waist and murmured, “I love you too.”

They stood there in the sun-dappled room locked in a passionate embrace.  He stopped painting for a long while and he no longer had any need for a muse.  They got married in a quiet ceremony in SaintPauldeVence, one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera.  When he returned to painting, he did portraits while Johari worked in a museum which featured his work.

 

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Faraway at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Maggie

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Photo: Courtesy of Roger Bultot

The woman in the painting with the thick, red curls, heart shaped face and whimsical smile bore a striking resemblance to his beloved Maggie.  Maggie…memories of her death was still very painful for  him.  Ten years ago on the day before her 20th birthday, she drowned.  They never found her body.

He would never forget the moment he first saw her.  She stood on the Great Hall balcony, a vision of beauty.

“David.” A voice broke into his reverie and he turned around.

His face turned ashen.  “Maggie?”  It couldn’t be.

She shook her head.  “No.  Rachel.  Maggie’s twin.”

99 words

This was written as part of the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  For more details, click Here.

To read stories of 100 words based on this week’s photo, visit Here.

The Secret Relationship

Douglas was in the kitchen, stacking the dishwasher while she was in the living-room, admiring the décor and the beautiful patina of the antique table beside the fireplace and below a painting of a person walking along a tree-lined path in the rain.  She paused to admire it.

The myriad of bright oranges, reds and yellows suggested that it was in the fall.  The path and the bench were soaked from the pouring rain.   Yet, the walker looked dry underneath the umbrella and in no hurry to get out of the rain.  She wondered if she should come out of the rain before she got wet.  Douglas and she had been seeing each other for months now.  This was the first time they were at his place.  So far they had been going out but avoided places where they might run into people they knew.  They couldn’t afford to allow anyone to find out about them or Douglas could lose his job.  He was her Economics professor.

The moment she walked into his class and saw him, she knew she was in trouble.  She tried not to stare but it wasn’t easy.  She would shoot him furtive glances every opportunity she got and when the class was over, she would linger, spending a little long packing up her bag. Thankfully, his was the last class for the day so she didn’t have to rush off to the next one.

One afternoon when she was packing up her bag, he went over to her desk.  She glanced up and their eyes met.  He had the most incredible green eyes and his face–she realized that she was staring and quickly looked away.

“I’m going to grab a cappuccino,” he said quietly.  “Would you like to join me?”

She looked at him, her heart racing.  He was asking her outGet a hold of yourself, girl.  It’s just a cappuccino.  “Yes, I’d like to,” she answered.

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll meet you at the front entrance.”

She zipped up her bag and left the classroom.  She waited on the steps, watching the sun set.  Five minutes later he drove up and stopped at the side of the curb.  She ran down the steps and got into his car.  They drove off.  On the way over to the coffee shop, he asked her what her major was.  “Sociology,” she said.  “I want to make a difference when it comes to the social problems that we face in our society and around the world such as poverty, race relations, gender inequality, globalization and environmental change.”

“When I tell people that I teach Economics, they look at me as if I were crazy.  Most people remember it as a very boring subject but when I explain to them that the course I teach is Urban Economics they become interested.”

They continued talking about university and courses until they arrived at an Italian cafe in Greenwich Village.  Over a Hazelnut Cappuccino and a Hot Chocolate, they talked about other things.

“Do you ice-skate?” he asked an hour and a half later when he was taking her home.

She nodded.

“Do you have any plans for tomorrow evening?”

She shook her head.

“We can go skating at Bryant Park and then have dinner at the restaurant there.”

They went to Bryant Park and she had a wonderful time.  It had been a while since she last skated and after a few shaky steps and falls, she was fine.  Afterwards they had dinner in the restaurant where it was nice and warm.  He asked to take her out the following evening and they began seeing each other regularly after that.

The sound of his footsteps behind her brought her back to the present.  She joined him on the sofa.  They were going to watch an old movie classic but she couldn’t concentrate.  She was intensely aware of him and the fact that they were sitting very closely together so that his knee was touching hers.  At one point she could sense that he was looking at her.  As the movie progressed, she was on tenterhooks, wondering if at any point, he was going to make a move and longing for him to.

Finally, unable to bear it any longer, she turned to look at him when she knew that he was watching her.  Their eyes met and held.  Deliberately, she lowered her gaze to his mouth and parted her lips.  Without saying a word, he reached for her and pulled her across his lap.  His head swooped down and he was kissing her.  Her arms went around his neck and held him tightly as they exchanged passionate kisses.

After a while, he raised his head and gazed down into her face, his own flushed.  “I’ve been a professor for ten years now and not once have I ever been attracted to any of my students.  Then, you walked into my classroom.  I didn’t want to be attracted to you but I couldn’t fight it.  I approached you at the risk of losing my job.”

She reached up and touched his face.  “I was never attracted to any of my teachers but the moment I saw you, I was in trouble.  Common sense told me to transfer to another class but I listened to my heart instead.”

“Robyn, I want us to continue seeing each other but under the quiet until you graduate.”

She nodded.  “Okay.”

“By the way, who was that guy I saw you talking to in the hallway on Thursday before you came to class?”

She tried to remember who he was talking about for a moment.  “Oh, that was Eric.”

“What did he want?” he asked tightly.

“He wanted to know if I was free Saturday night.”

His eyes darkened in jealousy.  “And what did you tell him?”

“I told him that I wasn’t.  I also told him that I was seeing someone.”

“I hate the idea of other guys asking you out.”

She reached up and kissed him.  “You don’t have to worry about any of them,” she murmured against his lips.  “They don’t stand a chance.”

Groaning, he kissed her back and then, putting his hands under her knees, he stood up and carried her to his room.

They managed to keep their relationship a secret and on the day of her graduation in June, he asked her to marry him.

mixed couple in love

Sources:  Thought.co; Huffington Post; University of Kent; NYU; Cafe Reggio

A Picture of Faith

When I saw this painting of John Huss, I had to take a photo of it.  It made such an impression on me.  He was in the dungeon in the Island Tower in Konstanz, Germany, confined with fetters on his legs, hardly able to walk, yet his dedication to the Lord kept him.  It helped him to rise above his dismal surroundings and conditions.  It was here that he had a dream which comforted him in his last days.  It was of the triumph of the true faith and the image of Christ painted afresh in hearts by better preachers than himself.

In the painting his eyes are looking up in faith and not down in despair.  He was looking to the Author and Finisher of his faith.   It was to his Savior that he sang, “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me” as the flames kindled about him.

John Huss

Sources:  The Great Controversy; Wikipedia