Never heard of Hertha Marks Ayrton? That's OK. Neither had I. But let me tell you why I'll definitely be remembering her.

Ayrton would have been 162 today, so Google decided to honor her with a Doodle designed by artist Lydia Nichols.


Image from Google.com

Ayrton was the first woman to present a scientific finding to the esteemed British Royal Society, way back in 1904.

A painting of Ayrton. Image from Mme. Darmesteter/Wikimedia Commons.

This is the same society that heard presenters like Charles Darwin and Michael Faraday (one of the great founders of modern electric knowledge).

Ayrton's work was "The Origin and Growth of Ripple-mark," which helped explain ripple marks, those weird lines on beaches.

Image from Margaret W. Carruthers/Flickr.

If that seems silly, this is no eighth-grade science experiment. Fluid dynamics is incredibly weird and difficult, but Ayrton was a powerhouse of math and physics knowledge. Her discovery helped us better understand how fluids like air and water move, which affects things from water delivery to electric turbine design.

This wasn't Ayrton's only contribution to science.

Image from A. Rintel/Wikimedia Commons.

At the turn of the century, a new form of lighting had hit Britain: the electric arc lamp. The lights were bright and dependable but also had a weird tendency to hiss when they were turned on.

Well, it was Ayrton who figured out what that noise was. In 1899, she presented a paper, "The Hissing of the Electric Arc," to Britain's Institute of Electrical Engineers. She explained that the noise was from craters forming in the lamp's carbon rods. Two days later, they elected her as their first female member.

Unfortunately, the scientific community sometimes tried to hold her back because of her gender.

In 1901, she wrote another paper about electric arcs and tried to present it to the Royal Society. But the society had a man present her work instead.

"An error that ascribes to a man what was actually the work of a woman has more lives than a cat," she once said — a quote that I think might resonate with a lot of other female scientists.

Nevertheless, Ayrton continued to make significant contributions to electrical engineering.

She was never one to let people hold her back because of her gender, though. She was a keen supporter of women's suffrage in England.

A suffrage meeting in England circa 1908. Image from The New York Times/Wikimedia Commons.

She took part in a lot of marches and demonstrations, was a member of the Women's Social and Political Union, and either founded or help lead many other suffrage societies. She also opened her home to women who had been jailed after demonstrations and hunger strikes.

She was also a prolific inventor, and her inventions saved lives in World War I.

Image from Ernest Brooks/Wikimedia Commons.

By the time she died, she had 26 different patents under her belt. In 1915, Ayrton invented a fan that saved soldiers from the poisonous gas weapons of World War I.

Over 100,000 fans were sent to the battlefield.

Hertha Marks Ayrton was an awesome engineer, mathematician, physicist, inventor, and proponent of women's suffrage.

It kind of sucks that more people haven’t heard of her and that we needed a Google Doodle to find out about her. But it's still pretty powerful to see a big, public reminder of the huge number of amazing women who have had an impact on our world.

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