Suffrage Science: Heirloom passing on ceremony 2012
Last night at the Dana Centre, took place the Suffrage Science’s Heirloom passing on ceremony led by writer and broadcaster Vivienne Parry, who joined the Medical Research Council (MRC) in 2008. The event saw ten of last year’s heirloom recipients pass on their jewellery to their nominated candidates in a bid to encourage them to reach to the top as they plan to tackle the lack of female scientists acquiring the Nobel Prizes.
The tangible focus of the night along with the leading ladies were, of course, the jewellery heirlooms and textile designs that changed hands, signifying the change of baton to younger scientists who were seen as the prodigies and role models to lead female scientist out of obscurity and into global recognition.
The accessories were created by first year students Benita Gikaite and Anya Malhotra of Jewellery BA at Central Saint Martins. The former credited to the pendant design which she denotes as “male power” can be opened to reveal key dates including 1903 – the year Marie Curie was awarded her first Nobel Prize. The latter providing a brooch design featuring a convex lens of microscopes and the words Creative, Discover, Innovation, Invention and Power inscribed on it. The enamel rings present in the brooch feature the colours green, white and purple which represent hope, purity and dignity respectively.
The passing of the heirloom itself took place via a brief introduction and an explanation behind the predecessor’s decision in choosing their successor which was followed by the chosen candidate’s speech. Brenda Maddox, American biographer, who had chosen Georgina Ferry as her heirloom’s inheritor remarked: “I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more” in admiration of the recipient’s work as a writer and broadcaster in the Science field. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL, spoke of her nominee, Emily Holmes – Institute of Psychiatry, University of Oxford – citing herself as a “great admirer (of Emily) in the field of psychiatry”. Emily Holmes responded to such high adoration remarking her mentor as a true inspiration and concluded that the event would help in the “networking between female scientists”.
Each of the recipients has something to offer to the modern world with their work in science, a field where many argue few women have shown interest in. Elizabeth Murchison, Vivienne Parry’s designated heir to the jewellery, took the centre stage explaining in detail about her study of cancer in the Tasmanian devils that are transferred from one devil to the other. With the help of a few gruesome slideshows showcasing Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) and Canine transmissible venereal tumour (CTVT) along with a brief history of the evolution of cancer research in humans during the 1950s, Elizabeth Murchison had the entire room intrigued and had me wondering why indeed only 47 women were credited to the Nobel Prizes when in reality, there are many women who are perfectly qualified to hold that accolade.
The night was concluded following Georgina’s comments regarding lack of women in Nobel Prizes, especially in the Science category, in which she provided the women with words of encouragement. She said: “Winning the Nobel Prize is not as important as you would like to think because they are still doing a wonderful job. They are still an important part of society in the science field.”
Heirloom Donors – Heirloom Recipients:
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (UCL) – Emily Holmes (University of Oxford)
Mary Collins (UCL) – Tracey Barrett (Birkbeck College)
Dame Sally Davies (CMO) – Nicole Soranzo (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute)
Helen Fisher (Rutgers University) – Bianca Acevedo (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
Brenda Maddox (Biographer) – Georgina Ferry (Science Writer)
Sohaila Rastan (CSO, RNID) – Edith Heard (Institut Curie)
Liz Robertson (University of Oxford) – Marysia Placzek (University of Sheffield)
Vivienne Parry (Broadcaster) – Elizabeth Murchison (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute)
Janet Thornton (European Bioinformatics Institute) – Sarah Teichmann (MRC LMB)
Fiona Watt (CRUK) – Christiana Ruhrberg (UCL)