Trailblazers celebrates Remarkable Women in Science at Newcastle's Discovery Museum

By Culture24 Reporter | 26 February 2013

Exhibition preview: Trailblazers – a Celebration of Remarkable Women in Science, Discovery Museum, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, March 8 – September 29 2013

A photo of a woman in profile wearing a circular hat and a black and white dress
Bassano, Rachel Mary Parsons (1919)© National Portrait Gallery, London
Marie Stopes, the palaeobotanist who advocated birth control, and Dorothy Hodgkin, who won the 1964 Nobel Prize for her work in mapping penicillin and insulin, are two of the inspirational stars of a line-up of National Portrait Gallery works in this show.

An image of a painting of a woman sitting at a large desk in a drawing room writing
Maggie Hambling, Dorothy Hodgkin (1985) © National Portrait Gallery, London
And Chi Onwurah, who will be a patron when the display opens on International Women’s Day, is hoping they stir some scientific successors to their work.

“One of my strongest memories as a child is standing in the Science Museum in Newcastle’s Exhibition Park, looking at the glorious Turbinia and thinking what a fine thing it must be to be an engineer and build something so beautiful and so useful,” reflects the Labour MP for Newcastle.

“It is a sad truth that four decades after I was inspired, only 12% of UK professional engineers are women – the lowest rate in Europe.

“How can we expect to pay our way in the world by inventing and making things if we are taking our engineers and scientists from only half of our population?

“We need to inspire girls. I think it is especially fitting that now it is Discovery Museum which houses Turbinia and other examples of Northern engineering.

“It should celebrate the role of women in Science and Engineering and the contribution they can make.”

Four newly commissioned portraits of modern women working in science and technology have been produced as part of the show, which culminates in the British Science Festival visiting Newcastle.

Naval architect Rachel Parsons – who might have been motivated by her dad, the inventor of the steam turbine – and inventor Lydia Arnold are also pictured. The message is clear.

“Nearly half of all co-ed maintained schools in England do not send even one girl on to do physics A-level,” rues Dr Alex Brabbs, of the Institute of Physics.

“We need to correct this situation, not just to make sure that girls have an equal opportunity to study a subject that opens up a range of exciting and rewarding careers, but also to make sure that British businesses are not losing out on all that potential talent.

“The scientists and engineers featured in the Trailblazers project represent role models who we hope will encourage today’s young women to follow in their footsteps”.

  • Open 10am-5pm (2pm-5pm Sunday). Admission free. Follow the museum on Twitter @Discovery_Mus.
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