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History and Philosophy of Mathematics Seminar: Kris Palmieri (University of Chicago)
November 13 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
True Grit: Writing the History of Women at Yerkes Observatory, 1895–1950
Women at Yerkes Observatory earned advanced degrees, conducted their own research, collaborated on projects with peers of both sexes, and authored publications in their own names in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Yet Alice Hall Farnsworth, Mary Murray Hopkins, Harriet McWilliams Parsons, and Evelyn Worhnam Wickham – to name only a few – are unknown even amongst specialists. This is in large part because their lives and their labor are all but invisible in published sources and public records. Yet the voices of these women remain preserved in archives across the country – and this presents us with an unparalleled opportunity to reconstruct their lived experiences as women in science.
This paper explores the ways in which biography provides a uniquely productive lens for reconstructing the history of women at Yerkes. In so doing, however, it also explores the limits of biography for a research project that is anchored by its focus on a specific institutional space and asks how these limits might be overcome.