Paying Homage to Those Who Came Before

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Last year I read a book called Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars, by Nathalia Holt. It was given to me by my dear friend Michelle, who knows I like to learn about women in STEM.
In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn't turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible.
It was a lovely book. These women worked as mathematicians at JPL before there even was a JPL, and the prowess and determination of the Rocket Girls made me proud to be a woman who works in STEM.* They paved the way for women not only in the field of aerospace, but in all STEM fields. If their accomplishments had actually been taught in schools, perhaps whole generations of kids would not have assumed that girls were "bad" at mathematics.

One of the things they talked about in the book was the fact that they used tools called French Curves in their work to graph trajectory. Evidently these tools were expensive in those days, so they shared a set to perform their work. 

Which got me to thinking, always a dangerous turn of events. 

What if I had a set of beautiful French curves to hang in my office to remind me of where I came from, professionally speaking? 

So I contacted my buddy Karl, an accomplished artist who lives in Alaska, and asked him what he thought about taking on the project. Since he's classically trained as a draftsman, he was excited about the idea, and agreed to design and build them. 

Well, they arrived yesterday, and they were so worth the wait. 

Displayed on their temporary home, the sideboard.

The inside of the lid.

Top - parabola; middle - irregular curve; bottom left - hyperbola; bottom right - ellipses

I don't want to damage the case, so I'll probably have to mount skinny shelves with a lip on the wall, and then put the pieces on those, leaning up against the wall.

The case is walnut, the curves are sapele with cast pewter edges, and the fabric in the case is green wool.

I can't wait to get them on the wall. Thank you, Karl - they're lovely.
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*I am in no way comparing myself to these amazing women. I'm a complete and utter slacker compared to them...I'm just happy and flattered to say we all worked in STEM.

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