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Who can honestly say they've never dreamt about exploring space, about setting foot on other planets? I know that I can't. Being outside the protective atmosphere of our planet, a space suit the only thing separating us from space - I imagine life can't get much more exciting than that. The woman I want to write about for this year's Ada Lovelace Day makes these space explorations possible for humankind in the first place.

original picture credit: NASA

Finding Ada 2010: Amy Ross: Space Suit Engineer )

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Today is Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. The idea is to get bloggers worldwide to post an article about a woman scientist or engineer to raise awareness on women in technology and shine a light on all the possible role models for women who want to pursue a career in this field.

Ada Lovelace, who inspired this event, lived in the 19th century. But there were women in science before her. I want to take this opportunity and tell you about Aglaonike, a female astronomer in ancient Greece.


Aglaonike lived around 200 B.C., we know about her because she gets mentioned in Plutarch and Apollonius of Rhodes.
By her contemporaries she was regarded as a sorceress, who possessed the power to make the moon disappear at her will. Plato, Horace, and Virgil all refer to women from Thessaly with this particular skill.

Plutarch on the other hand does not appear to attribute her skills to magic or sorcery but to astronomical knowledge:

"she, through being thoroughly acquainted with the periods of the full moon when it is subject to eclipse, and, knowing beforehand the time when the moon was due to be overtaken by the earth's shadow, imposed upon the women, and made them all believe that she was drawing down the moon".
after Women in science (Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie), p.25f

Aglaonike is therefore often regarded as one of the first female astronomers whom we know by name.
En Hedu'anna, who predates Aglaonike by 2000 years, is sometimes regarded as the first. She was princess of Akkad and held the position of high priestess to the moon god Nanna in Ur, but she is most famously known for her hyms.


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Joan Y. Psmith
"Because we're grown-ups now, and it's our turn to decide what that means."
~ xkcd

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