Elizabeth Blackwell: the power of applied education

Born in 1821, Elizabeth Blackwell did not intend to become a physician. In her book Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women, she shared that “the very thought of dwelling on the physical structure of the body and its various ailments filled me with disgust.” But the course of her life changed when …

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Simone de Beauvoir: the power of intellectual advocacy

Born in 1908, Simone de Beauvoir was an influential writer, feminist, social theorist, and philosopher. She is best known for her 1949 book, The Second Sex, which upended traditional notions of the role of women in society. Beauvoir made the case that women have always been treated as an “other” and advocated for women’s liberation. …

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Aspasia: the power of debate and collective learning

You have likely heard of Socrates and Plato, two of the most well-known ancient Greek philosophers. The names Pericles and Cicero may also ring a bell. But Aspasia, a little-known female philosopher with the gift of persuasion, is rarely mentioned in history books. However, she was one of the most influential philosophical figures in Athens. …

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Katherine Johnson: the power of questioning the rules

Katherine Johnson was always passionate about mathematics. She started taking classes at West Virginia State College at 13 years old and started her career as a math teacher. Then in 1953, Johnson became a part of a group of Black women mathematicians known as “human computers” at the Langley Research Center. Her equations sent the …

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Jane Goodall: the power of experimentation and conviction

Scientist Jane Goodall always watched the world around her. As a child, she would spend hours watching jumping spiders and keep all kinds of pets. She also gave her parents quite a scare when she went missing as a child. But her parents eventually found her in the henhouse observing the chickens. Jane just wanted …

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Ada Lovelace: the power of imagination and poetical science

Ada Lovelace is considered the world’s first computer programmer. In 1842, Lovelace translated an Italian publication about Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine into English. However, this was no ordinary translation. Lovelace added extensive notes of her own, suggesting ways the Analytic Engine could be programmed to calculate certain equations using a series of punch cards. Her …

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Marie Curie: the power of sharing radical ideas with the world

Marie Curie was a woman of firsts. Born in 1867 in Warsaw, Poland, she was a child prodigy in literature and mathematics. She worked as a governess until the age of 24 to save money for school, where she became the first woman in France to earn her Ph.D. She studied uranium, a radioactive element …

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Social proof: is there always safety in numbers?

When faced with a difficult decision, copying the actions of others can feel reassuring. We are social animals, and following the crowd can lead us to believe that we are benefitting from the wisdom of others. This may be especially true if we emulate the behaviour of those we consider to be authority figures. This …

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