WYPB Essay Competition 2018 Winners Announced
In 2018, the WISE Young Professionals’ Board ran an Essay Competition for 10-15 year olds to write 500 words on an inspirational woman, past or present, in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths. The WYPB liaised with a number of schools and we received a fantastic number of applications in both the age 10-12 and age 13-15 category, highlighting incredible and under-recognised women in STEM from all around the world, including Valentia Tereshkova, Roma Agrawal, Wang Zhenyi, Inge Lehmann, Rita Montalcini, Chien-Shiung Wu, and Gertrude Elion.
After much deliberation, the two winners were determined as follows;
- Disha Shetty (for the age 10-12 category) for her essay on Mary Anning, a Dorset-born fossil hunter from the 19th century who overcame extreme poverty and despite a lack of education, contributed to some of the most important paleontological finds of the era and is a powerful study in determination and overcoming the odds; and
- Riddhi Patel (for the age 13-15 category) for her essay on Caroline Herschel, a German-born astronomer from the 18th century who discovered multiple comets, and is considered to be one of the the first women officially recognized in a scientific position.
You can read their winning essays below.
Outside the entrance to the exhibition ‘The Sun: Living With Our Star‘. From left to right: Krishna Patel, Riddhi Patel (13-15 winner), WISE YPB Chair Sabrina Castiglione, Disha Shetty (10-12 winner), Prakash Raviraj.
As the prize for winning the competition, each winner received a STEM coding kit from Tech Will Save Us, and they were treated to an expenses-paid day trip to London to visit the Science Museum including the exhibitions on The Sun: Living With Our Star, a trip to the Wonderlab (The Equinor Gallery), and lunch at the Science Museum, kindly sponsored by Tessian.
At the Exhibitions, we learned about the incredible story of our closest star – the Sun – as well as learning about fission and some scary facts about solar storms! We also took note of a special mention for female astrophysicist Celia Payne who first proposed that stars like our Sun were primarily composed of hydrogen and helium.
At the Wonderlab, we were also able to watch a marvellous live demonstration of the science behind rockets in the show space (and later, to visit the original Apollo 10 Command Module (pictured)), and watch cool live chemistry demonstrations.
The WYPB will be re-running the Essay Competition in 2019, so please keep an eye out for the notification. If you represent a school or know students aged 10-15 who’d like to take part in the 2019 competition, please send an email to WISEYPB@gmail.com with the subject ‘Essay Competition 2019 Pre-Registration’ and we’ll reach out with more details when the competition is announced.
‘Mary Anning (The Fossil Hunter)’ by Disha Shetty (winner of the age 10-12 category)
She lived through a lightning strike at the age of 15 months; she battled poverty throughout her life; but Mary Anning will be remembered for her brilliant work with fossils at the Blue Lias cliffs in Dorset 200 years ago.
Mary Anning was born in 1799, in Lyme Regis, in Dorset. Anning’s family were very poor. Therefore, she only went to Sunday school where she learnt basic English. This did not deter her though!
Many of her siblings died and only two survived; Mary and her brother, Joseph. Her father used to take them to the Blue Lias cliffs in search of ‘curiosities’ (fossils), which they would chisel and sell, to help make ends meet. Anning was fascinated by the little fossils and had a knack for spotting them. Her interest for collecting and selling these ‘curiosities’ kept growing until one day, her father, her only teacher, slipped of the cliff and did not survive. This did not deter her though!
Anning’s poor education meant she couldn’t get enough money. To make money she had to risk her life every day to find fossils. It was very dangerous work because she was at constant risk of being crushed by falling mounds of rock. She even lost her dog, Tray, in a landslide. But she never gave up!
Anning’s life was suddenly turned around, when she was only 12 years old, the year after her father died. Anning was scavenging the coast when she spotted a rock with something sticking out the end. With some help, she got it home and started to chisel it away. It was like nothing anyone had seen before. It was, in fact, an ‘Ichthyosaurus’ meaning ‘fish lizard’. She sold it to Henry Hoste Henley, a local collector, for £23. It was displayed in London, but there was no mention of Anning, who found the fossil. Henry got the credit and the money! Many men in science who wanted to see her work visited her, but when they published their books, they did not write about her, as she was a poor woman. But she didn’t give up!
After a lot of hard work, Anning discovered the first ‘plesiosaurus’, which was then examined by George Curvier, a renowned fossil collector, who gave her the recognition that she richly deserved. Unfortunately, other men in science didn’t agree and refused to let her into the Geological Society. As you know by now, she never gave up!
Anning carried on fossil hunting and discovered a ‘Dimorphadon’. This final discovery convinced the members of the Geological Society and they agreed to let her be an honorary member, not regular, for women weren’t allowed. But still a member!
Anning died of breast cancer in 1847. She was not educated to be a scientist, but she changed science forever and proved that nothing is impossible. She is remembered aptly as the source for the tongue twister, ‘she sells sea shells on the sea shore.’
‘Caroline Herschel’ by Riddhi Patel (winner of the age 13-15 category)
Caroline Herschel was the first woman who was officially recognized in a scientific position, and the first woman to receive honorary membership into Britain’s Royal Society. She made a great contribution to Astrology as she was the first women to sight a comet and she found several in her lifespan.
Herschel was born in Germany on March 16, 1750. She lived in a family filled with ten children. Her family was very musical; when her older brother William moved to London she went with him at the age of 22 to train as a singer. She sang as a soprano in a number of performances.
Whilst in his mid-thirties, William Herschel took interest in Astronomy & his sister worked as his assistant. William discovered the planet Uranus in 1781, and was knighted and appointed court astronomer to King George III.
In 1783 William would observe the night sky studying it section by section. He would stand on his ladder at his telescope and call his observations to Caroline who recorded what he saw. Eventually, they assembled 2500 new nebulae (a cloud of gas and dust in outer space) and star clusters.
Caroline would often use a small Newtonian sweeper to study the sky by herself. On February 26 1783 Caroline Herschel discovered an open cluster known today as NGC 2360. She went on to discover 14 new nebulae.
On August 1 1786 Caroline identified an object travelling slowly through the night sky. She observed it again the next night and immediately alerted other astronomers to announce her discovery and to inform them of its path so they could also study it.
Caroline Herschel had become the first woman to discover a comet.
After helping her brother for years, Caroline’s own skills in Astronomy were recognised. In 1787, King George III officially employed her as William’s assistant, providing her with a modest salary and making her the first woman paid for scientific services.
In 1788, when her brother got married, Caroline had more time to study the night sky and went to discover seven more comets over the next decade.
Furthermore, she cross-referenced the existing star catalogue made by England’s first astronomer royal John Flamsteed, submitting more than 550 stars that had not been included in the original version.
After her brother’s death in 1822, Caroline Herschel returned home to Germany and continued to work on their catalogue of nebulae. She received the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society and received honorary membership into the Royal Society.
Caroline Herschel died on Jan. 9, 1848. She was an inspiration to many as she broke many stereotypes of women in the 18th century.
Only wealthy women were given an education, and many were expected to do housework and never work, let alone make an impact.
The inscription on her tombstone says, “The eyes of her who is glorified here below turned to the starry heavens.”