An open letter about the wonderful women who contributed to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

Submitted by webel on Thu, 07/14/2022 - 00:57
By Dr Darren of Webel IT Australia
I don't usually blog, but this is a special case. Because the release of the first public images (in 2022) from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and its technological success is a good news story the world needs in this time of great troubles.

To the young girls and young women of Planet Earth

In our now too often Instagram and selfie-obsessed world, where the “look how many likes I have” social media influencers put themselves forward as heroes to emulate, as doing something worth striving for, watch this presentation video on the release of the first breathtaking images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), introduced by the always wonderful astronomer/astrophysicist Michelle Thaller.

The video is about 53 minutes long. (You can safely skip the first 3mins countdown.) Look at how many intelligent, hard working, happy, deservedly proud women from around the world worked on all aspects of the science, engineering, operations and project management to help make the JWST a success!

They are TRUE heroes. Be like them! They are something to aspire to.

The stunning, meaningful images they have helped create and that are now being released are far more beautiful, fascinating, and timeless than yet another selfie. Those JWST images sure are getting a lot of likes, aren't they!

And BTW, they do take selfies - together with other team members - of their group reflections in the golden JWST mirrors!

I have some favourite great women of science, maths, and technology. For me, these historical greats really stand out, I am sure there are many more I don't know about:

  • Rosalind Franklin: The "dark lady" of the discovery of DNA.
  • Emmy Noether: Of whom Wikipedia says: 'discovered Noether's First and Second Theorem, which are fundamental in mathematical physics ... She was described by Pavel Alexandrov, Albert Einstein, Jean Dieudonné, Hermann Weyl and Norbert Wiener as the most important woman in the history of mathematics.'
  • Grace Hopper: An American computer scientist, the genius behind what we in coding languages basically now know as "compilers".
  • Henrietta Swan Leavitt: An astronomer who discovered the relation between the luminosity and the period of Cepheid variables, helping to establish a "standard candle" with which to measure the distance to faraway galaxies.
  • Margaret Hamilton: Not only a software engineer, but the actual inventor of the term 'software engineer', and it's interesting to learn exactly what she meant by it:
    "I began to use the term ‘software engineering’ to distinguish it from hardware and other kinds of engineering, yet treat each type of engineering as part of the overall systems engineering process."
    Her accomplishments across IT, publication, education, technology innovation and business are nothing short of astonishing.

You, young ladies and young women of modern Planet Earth, don't now have the same challenges they faced (at least not to the same extent). But you have a new challenge, a new distraction; it's called social media, "likes", and a culture of instant gratification, one minute of fame, and media bites that reward a short concentration span.

Give me a smart space scientist lady over a "selfie queen" any day

See the external JWST links for more. Now that's something worth looking at and liking!

Learn also about the activities of the Women in STEMM Australia organisation
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