A space of one’s own

‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write’

The famous opening of Virginia Woolf’s extended essay ‘ A Room of One’s Own’ is the starting point for this post. It was just as applicable to science in the days of the ‘gentleman amateur’ as it was to literature and to an extent it is still true today. In Virginia’s day of course a woman was lucky to get a decent education, never mind the kind of fulfilling job that a woman of her intellectual powers clearly wanted and needed.Which is why the rare exceptions such as Marie Curie and Lise Meitner are so inspiring.

XKCD cartoon about Marie Curie

I started this blog (which has been shamefully empty of new posts for the last couple of months) while I was on leave looking after the sterna chick, I am now back at work and settling in to the daily life of a scientist again. I was reminded of this quote because while I was on leave I literally felt like I had no space or time to work. This may not have been quite true, but sleep, house work and some relaxing quality time with the male sterna were also important variables to factor in to the time equation for me. By going back to work I have not only got the money, but also the room of my own (well shared with a very quiet office mate) that Virginia quite clearly pined for. I can now finally get down to the work that has been niggling at me for the last 8 months. This is not to say that I am stressed out about work, to the contrary, I find my work rewarding, challenging, intellectually stimulating and a fundamental part of my identity.

I may not be able to make a great contribution to literature like Virginia Woolf, and science, certainly these days, progresses in small increments rather than big steps, so I’m not expecting to discover an entirely new chemical element or explain nuclear fission (which would be a bit bizarre given my field anyway). I hope though, that at least in a small way, my work will help to advance the body of knowledge and thus fulfil the promise that a room of one’s own holds.

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