Simanaitis Says

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“OF THE 1586 CRATERS on the Moon named after individuals, only 28 are named after women.” This, from Emily K. Gibson’s book review in Science, August 2, 2019, titled “The Dark Side of the Moon—and Science.”

Here are tidbits on Gibson’s review.

The Women of the Moon: Tales of Science, Love, Sorrow, and Courage, by Daniel R. Altschuler and Fernando J. Ballesteros, Oxford University Press, 2019.

Women on the Moon. The earliest woman discussed in the book is Hypatia of Alexandra; the most recent, Russian cosmonaut Valentine Tereshkova.

Hypatia is the first female mathematician whose accomplishments are recorded. Though a pagan, she was said to be tolerant towards Christianity and taught many students of this faith. Alas, in March 415 Hypatia was murdered by a Christian mob.

Above, Hypatia of Alexandra, c. 350-370 A.D.–415 A.D., Hellenistic Neoplatonist philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician. Below, Valentine Tereshkova, Soviet Union-born 1937, the first woman in space and, to this day, the only woman to have soloed in orbit.

Valentine Tereshkova’s love of adventure is typified by her early interest in parachuting and skydiving. After Yuri Gagarin became, in 1961, the first man to orbit the Earth, Soviet officials wanted to have the first woman in space too.

Tereshkova was one of five women selected in 1962. On June 16, 1963. As noted in Wikipedia, “Following the tradition set by Gagarin, Tereshkova also urinated on a bus tire, becoming the first woman to do so.”

One жесткая леди (tough lady)!

Lunar-Naming Rules. The practices for naming lunar real estate evolved from the work of a woman, Mary Blagg: Science reviewer Gibson notes, “After its founding in 1919, the International Astronomical Union adopted Blagg’s comprehensive study of lunar nomenclature as the international standard. The IAU also established an official qualification for naming lunar craters that deemed ‘deceased scientists and polar explorers who have made outstanding or fundamental contributions to their field’ as worthy of the distinction.”

The criteria have since been broadened to include cosmonauts and astronauts who are still alive.

Why So Few “Women of the Moon”? Ironically, Gibson notes, many women contributed significantly, but in supporting the work of others, not their own.

Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming, 1857–1911, Scottish astronomer, discoverer of the Horsehead Nebula in 1888.

Williamina Fleming, one of the women known as the “Harvard computers,” wrote in her diary in 1900, “… you come down to the realities when you have to put all that is most interesting to you aside, in order to use most of your available time preparing the work of others for publication.”

Image from Big World Tale.

The next time you view the Man in the Moon, be aware that it could as likely be a woman’s visage. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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