January 28 – Happy Birthday, Dame Kathleen Lonsdale

Posted on January 28, 2016

Diamonds are a dame's best friends?

Dame Kathleen Lonsdale was an accomplished scientist, researcher, professor. She accomplished a lot of “firsts” for women in science. (“Dame” is an honorary title for women equivalent to “Sir” for men. Lonsdale was given the title Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1956 for her scientific work.)

One of her Lonsdale's students – a woman who went on to become a science professor herself – acknowledged that she learned a lot of science from Professor Lonsdale, but she ALSO said that she learned a lot about how to balance a career and a family from Lonsdale. And that is a really important thing!

Lonsdale was born on this date in 1903 in Ireland, but she moved to England when she was just five years old. At the time that she was attending high school, mathematics and science were not offered in the High School for Girls, so she ended up transferring to a High School for Boys for those subjects! She went on to earn Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees at university. Eventually she became the first woman to be a tenured professor at the University College London.

I'm sure you're dying to know what that diamond crack at the top of this article was all about? Well, Lonsdale's specialty was crystallography, the study of atomic and molecular structure. One of the things she worked on was the synthesis of diamonds. (That is, making diamonds, rather than digging up diamonds that were made naturally.)

Lonsdale also determined the structure of benzene rings, which are important organic compounds, and of hexachlorobenzene. She was a pioneer in the use of X-rays to study crystals. Remember, crystals are found everywhere in nature, from snowflakes to gemstones, from salts to organic compounds to minerals. Here are some cool pictures from modern crystallography:

Also on this date:

Anniversary of first ski tow in the U.S.

Plan ahead:

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