Oceanographers, the Women Who Mapped the Sea and Measured Radioactivity

Although there were times when its name was omitted in scientific works, the progress of oceanography can not be explained without the contribution of women precursors such as the American Marie Tharp, who carried out the first cartography of the seabed.

This science was also promoted by the Japanese Katsuko Saruhashi, who measured the concentrations of carbon dioxide and radioactivity in water after World War II.

To the “Influence of feminine scientific thought in the study of the oceans: adventures and misfortunes” refers the curator of Marine Biology of the Museum of Natural Sciences of Tenerife, Alejandro de Vera, in a conference in which he has addressed this issue and that details.

The marine biologist points out that during the 19th century, thanks to the advance of maritime technology and the rise of the great trade routes between the Old and New World, the germ of oceanography was born as a true scientific discipline and, taking into account the role of the woman during that time, it was not surprising that this work was mainly taken by men.

Researchers remained for years aboard ships that traversed large stretches of the sea with harsh navigation conditions, among other factors, and yet, he explains, the progress of oceanography cannot be explained without some pioneers.

“They are relevant female figures who made great advances in the study of ecosystems and marine dynamics, facilitating the understanding of numerous oceanic phenomena that occur on a global scale,” he says.

Among those who laid the foundations is the British Mary Anning, who worked in Jurassic marine fossil deposits, considered “the mother” of Paleontology and who managed to find the first complete fossil of two dinosaur species.

Anning became friends and shared knowledge with Elizabeth Philpot, author of the description of several new species of fossils, describing for the first time structures such as coprolites, which are fossilized remains of the contents of the intestine of animals.

The British also Isabella Gordon “we owe almost everything we know today of crabs,” continues Alejandro de Vera, while his compatriot Marie Lebour was another pioneer who came to campaign in 1939 to Bermuda to study the microplankton, and in a risky collection of night samples fell with a fellow researcher to the water. She could be rescued, but he died in the accident.

In the United States, the foundations of oceanography were laid by Marie Tharp, the geologist who authored the first mapping of the seabed after noticing when analyzing data from probes and echo sounders that there were ridges and ridges.

Also outstanding was the contribution of Mary Sears, founder of the Woods Hole Institute of Massachusetts, the largest oceanographic center in the world, lieutenant of the United States Naval Reserve and during the Second World War she made intelligence reports that shed light on how temperature changes and salinity of the water help detect the hiding place of enemy submarines.

Alejandro de Vera also highlights the researcher with the greatest feminist thinking in the fight for equality of women in the field of science, the Japanese Katsuko Saruhashi, the first scientist in the world to measure CO2 dissolved in water, which is essential to quantify the Global warming effects.

In Spain, the best example in this scientific field is that of the internationally renowned Galician Ángeles Alvariño, whose mentor was precisely Mary Sears and who carried out research projects until almost the end of her life in Woods Hole.

Galician Ángeles Alvariño1

Alvariño is the mother of Spanish oceanography and a ship of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography crosses the seas with her name.


Source: La Vanguardia