Episode 4: A ‘Women’s Science’?

Broadcast date: Friday 13 June 2014, 4.30pm GMT (repeats at 7pm GMT Saturday, 7 June). Hear it on Resonance 104.4 FM (listen live online here) and in the Science Museum Media Space.

X-ray crystallography has long had a reputation for being a scientific field with a significant number of female practitioners, especially in the first half of the twentieth century when it was rare to find women in any scientific discipline. This episode looks at how ideas of ‘women’s work’ did – and did not – affect the lives of crystallography’s pioneering female scientists, with the help of our guest this week, science writer Georgina Ferry, whose writing is re-framing the issue of women in crystallography.

Dorothy Hodgkin's 1945 molecular model of penicillin, Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

Dorothy Hodgkin’s 1945 molecular model of penicillin, Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

 

We take a peak into the life of X-ray crystallographer Dorothy Hodgkin, who in 1964 became the only British woman ever to win a science Nobel Prize. Then we spotlight the work, across science and design, of a lesser-known X-ray crystallographer named Helen Megaw who spearheaded the Festival Pattern Group, which created spectacular patterns for household goods based on crystal diagrams all the way back in the 1950s.

 

Wrapping paper with pattern based on the structure of haemoglobin, produced by the Festival Pattern Group, 1951. Designed by W. Farquhar for Spicers Ltd. from a diagram  by crystallography Max Perutz transcribed by Helen Megaw

Wrapping paper with pattern based on the structure of haemoglobin, produced by the Festival Pattern Group, 1951. Designed by W. Farquhar for Spicers Ltd. from a diagram by crystallographer Max Perutz transcribed by Helen Megaw. Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

Dress fabric based on the structure of afwillite, produced by the Festival Pattern Group, 1951. Designed by S.M. Slade for British Celanese from a diagram by crystallographer Helen Megaw. Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

Dress fabric based on the structure of afwillite, produced by the Festival Pattern Group, 1951. Designed by S.M. Slade for British Celanese from a diagram by crystallographer Helen Megaw. Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

Sample of white lace with apophyllite pattern, mounted on black card. Produced by the Festival Pattern Group for the 1951 Festival of Britain, Designed by H. Webster for A.C. Gill, based on a diagram by W.L. Bragg transcribed by Helen Megaw. Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

Sample of white lace with apophyllite pattern, mounted on black card. Produced by the Festival Pattern Group for the 1951 Festival of Britain, Designed by H. Webster for A.C. Gill, based on a diagram by W.L. Bragg transcribed by Helen Megaw. Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

A short article by Emily about the Festival Pattern Group lace above can be found on the Science Museum Media Space site here.

In this episode we feature clips from my guest Georgina Ferry’s play about X-ray crystallographer Dorothy Hodgkin, Hidden Glory: Dorothy Hodgkin in her own words, performed by Miranda Cook and directed by Abbey Wright. Georgina Ferry’s book Dorothy Hodgkin: A Life will soon be issued as an e-book and print-on-demand title by Bloomsbury Reader. Find out more about Georgina Ferry’s work at www.georginaferry.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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