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I'm feeling a little deflated now, after seeing the final articles in our ‘Women and the RAS” celebration into print. It has been a year full of surprises, uncovering not only the interests and careers of the first women to be elected as fellows of the RAS, 100 years ago, but also comparing their lives with those of women in science today. I feel that many of those first fellows would fit well into today’s scientific careers; they were motivated by the same curiosity and confidence in their skills and abilities that I see in women researchers, educators and entrepreneurs in astronomy and geophysics.

But it is also salutary to note the slow pace of change over the 100 years since women were first elected fellows. Innovative and inspired scientists persevered in their work despite not being employed on the same terms as their male colleagues, or even without suitable jobs. Other marks of esteem from their peers also proved elusive; only a handful of RAS medals have gone to women over the lifetime of the Society. Things are changing but, just as the RAS took the lead and drove change in order to elect women as fellows in 1916, we need to help it move a little faster. Women make up just under 17% of RAS Fellows now; ten times better than 100 years ago, but still below the 20% of girls taking A level physics. So, OK, but not great; we are not attracting all the women we could be. But, as Karen Masters points out, as she looks to the future, 20% is a low baseline. If we could attract more girls to physics at university level, as happens in the US, for example, we could get a better gender balance in research, as also happens in the US. And maybe if all fellows could consider nominating outstanding women for RAS medals and awards, we would be showing these aspiring researchers that they will be taken seriously in their careers.

An example of how perseverance and improvements to technology can make a difference comes in Martin Barstow’s second Presidential Address Diamonds in the Sky. Here he outlines some of the difficulties and rewards of observing white dwarf stars over his career. It’s not just observing them – understanding how they work shines a bright white light on astrophysical understanding, especially those bits where the models don’t work. And that you can find out surprising things about new fields; in this case, cosmology and planet formation!

Women of the future in the RAS
Karen Masters
Volume 57, Issue 6

Persistent pioneers: from 1916 to the present
Sue Bowler
Volume 57, Issue 6

Diamonds in the sky
Martin Bairstow
Volume 57, Issue 6

Women and the RAS: 100 years of Fellowship 
Mandy Bailey
Volume 57, Issue 1

Throughout 2016, A&G will be including a series of articles about Women and the RAS, to celebrate 100 years since women were first elected to Fellowship. We start with an introduction by Mandy Bailey, who notes the distinguished women associated with the Society in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and charts the unsuccessful attempts by women scientists to become fellows. It was the changing social climate at the start of the twentieth century – and some proactive work by the RAS Council – that led to the first women Fellows joining the Society in 1916.

Gazing at the starry heavens 
Michael Hoskin
Volume 57, Issue 1

Michael Hoskin gives a short overview of the life and work of Caroline Herschel, Gold Medallist and Honorary member of the RAS. She discovered comets, catalogued star atlases and devoted her life to supporting the work of her brother, William Herschel, and nephew, John.

Fred Hoyle's birth centennial
Simon Mitton
Volume 56, Issue 6

2015 would have marked the hundredth birthday of Fred Hoyle, a towering figure in twentieth century UK astrophysics. The RAS held a meeting in October to recall and reassess Hoyle's life and the many strands of his work. He was not one to shy away from the big questions; his work encompassed the origin of the elements, theories of the universe, the origin of life and more, taking a firmly individual approach to them all. Simon Mitton, Hoyle's biographer, writes about the meeting.

Olympiad success for UK
Charles Barclay
Volume 56, Issue 5

Charles Barclay reports on the UK team's experience at the 9th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics, the first time the UK has entered this school-level competition.

Interview with Michel Mayor: Finding the first exoplanet, 20 years on
Sue Bowler
Volume 56, Issue 5

Sue Bowler interviews Michel Mayor, discussing his career since he and Didier Queloz discovered the first exoplanet around a normal star - a Jupiter-mass planet around 51 Pegasi - 20 years ago.

The role of magnetic interactions in natural systems
Adrian Muxworthy
Volume 54, Issue 2

Our planet's magnetic field was the subject of the 2011 Bullerwell Lecture by Adrian Muxworthy, in which he examined how the fossil field is preserved in minerals, to give us a record of this funamental feature of our planet.

Future exploration of the outer solar system
Leigh Fletcher
Volume 54, Issue 2

The more we find out about the outer reaches of the solar system, the more questions they raise, especially in the light of exoplanetary systems that are so very different from our own. In this review based on an RAS Specialist Discussion Meeting, Leight Fletcher addresses what we could learn from missions to these distant worlds.

‘A&G;’ for the IAU in Beijing
Sue Bowler
Volume 53, Issue 4

China is focusing on the development of astronomy as a driver for science and technology education, but that in turn needs a thriving research sector. This summary, drawn from papers in the Bulletin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, shows that there is no shortage of ambition in China's current research plans.

Testing gravity on cosmological scales
Baojui Li
Volume 53, Issue 4

Comsology is a fascinating topic and one that is benefitting from increasingly large and complex simulations that test the standard model of the universe. This review by RAS Research Fellow Baojiu Li addresses ways in which such simulations may challenge fundamental astrophysics.

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