Monthly Archives: June 2012

Caroline Willard Baldwin Day

If you check those daily history sites like we do, you may notice that tomorrow  (June 20)  in 1895, Caroline Willard Baldwin received the first ever PhD in Science awarded to a woman by an American university.

That’s a remarkable achievement for the time. If you’re a female geek, you may also wonder about the rest of Caroline’s story.  We certainly did, and spent an afternoon tracing her life through the Internet. Thankfully, it seems that everyone bought into that “information superhighway” line years ago, because one clue led to another, and another, and yet another. While it’s not the complete picture, we can tell you Caroline was an extraordinary woman and an extraordinary mind.

Caroline was born in San Francisco on June 30, 1869. She was the only child of Army vet and miner Alfred Baldwin, one of the pioneering members of Santa Cruz County in California, and Fannie Willard, who was noted for her intellectual pursuits. Fannie must have been quite a woman in her own right, because in addition to public schooling, she rounded out young Caroline’s education with lessons in language and other subjects.

Caroline went on to become the first woman to receive a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Mechanics at the University of California in 1892. She was so bright, she was one of the student speakers for the commencement ceremony at the University of California and placed third in her graduating class at Cornell University, where she received the famed doctorate in 1895. She wrote “A Photographic Study of the Arc Spectra” for the Physical Review journal of experimental and theoretical physics in 1896, and you can still read and download it today at the Internet Archive.

Three years after receiving her doctorate in physics, she married Charles Theobald Morrison and had two children, but she didn’t just pack her degrees away and take on the only role of wife and mother as society would expect at the time. Not only did she teach physics at the California School of Mechanical Arts, she also co-created the entire physics course there, authoring it with George Merrill. She was also active in a number of charities, and her favorite hobbies included “mountain trips” and “automobiling,” according to the 1914 Women’s Who’s Who, proving that her quest for adventure involved both mind and body. She left this earth far too soon, and her January passing is noted in the May 1928 issue of the Cornell Alumni News.

As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.” We just felt such an accomplished, history-making woman deserved more than one line on a webpage. By the way, if any of you write steampunk, she would make an awesome heroine.



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Women With Rabbit’s Feet? NBC Olympic Coverage Sticks Own Foot in Mouth

Athletes put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to the Olympics, but for winning female competitors, NBC commentators might as well give credit to a penny they found in the parking lot or a four-leaf clover stuck in their sports bra. That’s the finding of a study done by University of Delaware professor James Angelini, who pored over years of NBC Olympics commentary with a team of researchers and discovered any discussion of women athletes during events mainly focused on luck, while talk of male athletes was on skill. If women lost their events, then it became about physical ability and their commitment to the sport. When men lost, the commentary focused on the success and skill of their competitors.

Mentioned in the study are recorded primetime hours from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Winter Olympics. Angelini and his team graded the commentary for each gender and ethnicity on several factors, including mentioning luck, physical ability, intelligence, strength and commitment. Angelini also noted that in the 2010 games, 75 percent of athletes mentioned were male.

In a separate study, the researchers also discovered that NBC paid far more attention to American athletes, which isn’t that surprising. Angelini said that the coverage did go farther than just national pride. Also, commentators tended to mention more about physical skills when talking about African-American athletes, intelligence when covering Asians, and commitment and composure while covering white competitors.

Since the 2012 London Games are fast approaching and this is the Twitter era, call NBC out if you see them making these completely avoidable and tacky comments.  Maybe they’ll realize that keeping their jobs takes some skill in addition to a lucky break.



Photo credit: Flickr/forestfolks

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Hilda Terry Day

Born today in 1914, Hilda Terry spent her life doing things her own way. She was the first famous syndicated female cartoonist, and the first woman to be admitted to the National Cartoonists Society in 1950. That sounds like a mild achievement, but in truth, it wasn’t. It took a year for her to get in, and she cajoled and shamed them into admission. Once in, she planted a foot firmly in the doorway and brought in other women artists.

Best known for her comic “Teena,” a light-hearted look at a young girl’s life and interests which ran in newspapers from 1941 to 1964, she also had a lifelong interest in sports, and became a pioneer of computer animation by designing sports cartoons for scoreboards in the 1970s. She also toured with the USO, worked with the Campfire Girls on a national level and hosted salons at her home with her husband, fellow cartoonist Gregory D’Alessio; those salons drew such luminaries as poet Carl Sandburg and modern classical guitar innovator Andres Segovia.

Success is the best revenge, because the very society that didn’t want her in its ranks awarded her with the honor of Best Animation Cartoonist in 1979. Thanks to her headstart in computers, she stayed busy well into retirement by designing websites and teaching art. The Internet also became her medium for expressing opinions on everything from history to reincarnation. She passed away in 2006, after living a full life of making sure her voice was heard.



Filed under Comics, History, pop culture

Have Joss Whedon in the Palm of Your Hand

He’s had us in the palm of his hand for years, deftly manipulating our emotions with a flick of his little finger. (No! Not Wash!) Now you can return the favor and get the Joss Whedon mini-action figure, packaged with the DVD of Morgan Spurlock’s “Comic-con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope” and on sale at Toys R Us stores in July.

It’s the perfect thing if you’ve created the entire “Firefly” cast out of Legos and only need a director to finally take the show to a second season, or for re-enacting fierce storyboard sessions with Whedon and all your Avengers action figures.

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Teen Grad’s Math Papers Add Up to Fashion Expression

Work or wardrobe? Could be both, if your grades are good.

You’ll be sorry you basted your homework with gravy and called the dog when you see what 17-year-old Kara Koskowich did with her leftover papers.

She sewed them together to create her graduation dress, a nifty little number decorated with solved equations from a previous term. The Canadian teen even positioned the math in an “explosion” pattern so the problems and diagrams seem to burst out from the center of the dress.

Koskowich admits there were some variables in the construction, namely the fact that she is a procrastinator and barely finished the frock before the ceremony.

Her friend, Maura Pozek, made her own dress from plastic bags, which looks like a lovely ballerina-style skirt from a distance. Pozek said that even though their dresses cost nothing and everyone was dressed to the nines, she and Koskowich were the most popular kids there. That’s the power of geek, girlfriend, and the amazing lure of creativity and individuality.



Photo credit: Flickr/Deeder

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Can’t Have E.T. Without the Heat: Spielberg Restores Film Firearms

Never fear, nostalgic movie-watchers! Steven Spielberg is rolling up his sleeves and taking you to the gun show.  Thirty years ago today, E.T. the Extraterrestrial was released in theaters and quickly became one of the most loved family films ever. The famed director digitally removed the F.B.I. agents’ guns from the film in 2002, replacing them with walkie-talkies, because everyone knows you run from any official-looking person boasting a walkie-talkie.

While he made the switch to please parents’ groups, he learned you can’t please all the people all the time, and hardcore fans are the ones who shell out the bucks. Spielberg has been quoted as “regretting” the decision to change scenes in the movie, but we should honestly just be glad that buddy George Lucas didn’t talk him into including Jar-Jar Binks in the altered version. E.T. will be restored in time for a 30th Anniversary Celebration on Blu-Ray in October.


Photo credit: Flickr/ladybugbkt

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Disney World De-Wings Tinker Bell Teen

Take note, cosplayers: every time the Disney World dress code stings, a fairy loses its wings. A 15-year-old girl was recently stopped by security because she looked “too good” as a dressed-up Tinker Bell. The staff told the cosplaying teen she had to change out of the look that had taken hours to build because she could be mistaken for an actual Disney employee. Turns out there’s a dress code for visitors which bans costumes on everyone except little kids, because child labor laws discourage official five-year-old fairies.

The girl said she did it for her boyfriend, who dressed up as Peter Pan for the trip so they could make the visit special. There’s no mention about the young man changing clothes, so we’re assuming he doesn’t have the master-level costume skills of his young date.

At least Disney gave the girl some clothes to change into, although with the hair, glitter and make-up, she still probably looked like Tinker Bell on her day off. Freepass tickets were also handed out to soothe the would-be fairy’s nerves, because even Disney knows you don’t tick off Tink.

Our advice to the talented seamstress? Comic-Con is just around the corner, and they would love your look. Just add a taser to the end of that wand so you can fend off any unwanted suitors.



Photo credit: Flickr/Erik van Roekel


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