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100 Years of Women in the RAS: Virtual Issue

Women in the RAS logo

2016 marks 100 years since women were allowed to become Fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). To celebrate this anniversary, the RAS is telling the stories of these pioneering women researchers, their contemporary counterparts, and their impact on science through a series of events.

This includes a collection of articles in Astronomy & Geophysics looking at those who were recognised, those who deserved recognition but missed out on it, and how women are shaping the sciences of the sky and Earth. The collection below is freely available until 28 February 2017.
More articles will be added throughout 2016 so come back and check this page again soon.

From Sue Bowler, Editor, Astronomy & Geophysics:

It’s easy to dismiss the history of science as something separate from the real science that we do today. But the stories that make up the history of a subject can be a very accessible way to find out more about a subject. Those stories often involve the scientists themselves and meeting them as people brings their work to life in new ways.

I have had this experience many times in discovering more about the women who have shaped the RAS, from Gold Medallist Caroline Herschel to Honorary member Margaret Huggins, from Mary Blagg to Flora McBain. The women who became Fellows in 1916, the first year that election was open to them, worked on the Moon, meteors, atmospheric phenomena, solar physics, the history of astronomy and more. They shared the enthusiasms of their male counterparts, but often had fewer opportunities to pursue their interests.

But their surviving letters and notebooks, and their published works tell a story that feels modern and familiar; these are scientists, in their different ways, and individuals who, you feel, would be interesting to know. Mary Somerville’s unladylike language and curiosity; Caroline Herschel’s acerbic commentary and Annie Maunder’s sharply observed letters all speak of people who would hold their own in today’s universities and institutions.

As the twentieth century rolled on, science as a whole became more professional and astronomy and geophysics came into the remit of the universities. Slowly, the numbers increased. Women became RAS Fellows, Councillors and Officers; in 1994 Carole Jordan became the first woman President. Now the RAS has 16.7% women among its Fellowship, and that number is rising fast.

The last two issues of A&G will describe the work of more of these first women Fellows, with articles on Mary Blagg, selenologist, and Annie Maunder, solar physicist extraordinaire; Mary Proctor, a successful outreach professional; a survey of the way women have become a part of the RAS through the twentieth century and a look to the future.

Women of the future in the RAS
Karen Masters

Persistent pioneers: from 1916 to the present
Sue Bowler

Where are the women of the RAS?
Sue Bowler

Women and the RAS: 100 years of Fellowship
Mandy Bailey

Gazing at the starry heavens
Michael Hoskin

Mary Somerville on Scottish banknotes
Sue Bowler

21 Women: portraits to celebrate a centenary
Sue Bowler

Mary Somerville: pioneering pragmatist
Allan Chapman

Margaret Huggins and Tulse Hill Observatory
Barbara J Becker

Anne Sheepshanks: patron, benefactor, sister
Mark Hurn

From Scotch maid to innovative astronomer
Sue Nelson

Annie Jump Cannon, stellar astronomer
Sue Bowler

Agnes Mary Clerke: stars, systems, problems
Sarah Russell

Maunder and Clerke medals
Sue Bowler

The lady astronomers of Victorian Britain
Allan Chapman

Selenography and variable stars: WOMEN & THE RAS: MARY BLAGG
Jenny Shears

Making a career from outreach
Siân Prosser

A pioneer of solar astronomy
Silvia Dalla and Lyndsay Fletcher

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