Mrs. Ayrton, widow of Professor W. E. Ayrton, the electrician. Mrs. Ayrton's wonderful research and experimental work have brought her all honours possible to her sex. She is the only woman member of the Institution of Electrical
Photo, Engineers Elliott & Fry
The late Mary Kingsley was not daunted by the deadly regions of West Africa, and chose cannibal tribes for her special line of study, mixing freely amongst them, and sleeping unguarded in their huts. The list of women who deserve the diploma of the Royal Geographical Society might be continued, but we must not leave this department of woman's triumphs without a tribute to the heroism of women missionaries and the wives of missionaries who have faced numberless and unrecorded dangers and hardships in uncivilised regions of the world.
Turning to physical science, we find a woman triumphant in the greatest discovery of modern times. As we walk through that unique institution in London, the Radium Institute, our thoughts turn to Madame Curie labouring patiently in her husband's laboratory in Paris until she discovered that wonderful new force in Nature. As the co-discoverer of radium, Madame Curie received the Nobel Prize, and our own Royal Society, unable to offer a married woman its Fellowship, presented the late Professor and Madame Curie with a medal for their joint investigations.
A Great Electrician
We have another striking example of a woman's triumph in our own Mrs. Ayrton, widow of Professor W. E. Ayrton, the electrician. Unlike Mrs. Somerville, who hid her learned books beneath pieces of fancy-work lest her visitors might be shocked, Mrs. Ayrton works openly in her laboratory, and is the only woman member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, a society numbering over 6,000 men. In 1902 Mrs. Ayrton was formally nominated for the Fellowship of the Royal Society, but it was found, alas ! that the society had no legal right to elect a married woman to that distinction. Later, however, it recognised Mrs. Ayrton's original experimental investigations on the electric are and on sand ripples by presenting her with the Hughes' gold medal. She has lectured before the Royal Society, the British Association, and the International Electrical Congress. Her study of sand ripples upon the seashore has opened up a wide field of inquiry regarding the action of water and cognate subjects.
It is interesting to note that Mrs. Ayrton was one of the early Girton students. She is indeed a brilliant example of the triumph which a woman may achieve, even in unique realms of scientific research, when she has equal opportunities with men.
If we turn to the science of astronomy we find women winning laurels also in that field. In the past Caroline Herschel gave years of unselfish labour to aiding her brother, Sir John Herschel, in his astronomical work.
In modern times we have that remarkable co-partnership of the late Sir William Huggins and Lady Huggins in the study of spectrum analysis, a study which has created a revolution in astronomy. For more than forty years Lady Huggins has laboured in this delicate field of observation and investigation in her private observatory, standing for many hours at a time on the tall steps before the spectroscope to catch some particular spot in the heavens. She is joint author with her husband of various scientific papers on what has been called the " new astronomy." Lady Huggins was born an astronomer, and as a young girl began the study of spectrum analysis with a sixpenny prism and simple apparatus made by herself. Her marriage to the future president of the Royal Astronomical Society gave her the opportunity for developing her heaven-born gifts, and of aiding in one of the most wonderful researches of modern times.
The " new astronomy," in which Lady Huggins has played such an important part, differed from the old in the respect that it sought an exact knowledge of the chemical nature and of the physics of the heavenly bodies.
Hitherto they had only been regarded as to their position in the heavens for the guidance of the mariner, the calculation of the tides, and the daily regulation of time. The question arose, how was it possible to extend the methods of the laboratory to stars and suns ? The only means of communication was light, but by examination of the lines in a spectrum (formed by a prism) a code of signals was obtained which enabled the astronomer to decide the chemical nature of the bodies whence the rays of light came. The brilliant d iscoveries which rewarded Sir William and Lady Huggins in this line of astronomical investigation form a romance in science. They not only made their observations into the spectra of the stars, but photographed what they saw.
Lady Huggins proved an expert in astronomical photography and in delicate observation. Nature had endowed her for the work, as she has the rare faculty of observing equally well with both eyes, which greatly expedited her investigations. The usual method is for an astronomer, when observing very faint or bright objects, to keep the eye to the instrument only for a few minutes at a time - the eye does not retain the requisite sensitiveness for longer --and then rest, for if he proceeds to observe with the other eye, which in many people will be of different focal length, a readjustment of the instruments is necessary.
Lady Huggins, who, in collaboration with her husband, the late Sir William Huggins, Photo] has achieved signal success in the science of spectroscopic astronomy [R. Haines
Now, not only are the eyes of this great woman astronomer both equally sensitive, but they are of the same focal length, so that she can turn from the use of the one to the other without altering the instruments.
Lady Huggins was the joint author with Sir William of most of the scientific papers which he published, and which comprise, amongst others, the following subjects: *' The
Spectrum, Visible and Photographic of the Great Nebula in Orion," " The Photographic Spectra of Uranus and Saturn," "On the Spectrum of Nova Aur-igae," and "On the Relative Behaviour of the H and K Lines in the Spectrum of Calcium." A series of most delicate and beautiful experiments by Sir William and Lady Huggins resulted in the brilliant discovery dealt with in the last-named paper.
The triumphs of Lady Huggins in spectroscopic astronomy have not prevented her interest in the graceful accomplishments of life. She is a skilled musician, a collector of old music and musical instruments, draws and paints, carves in wood, is a specially expert photographer, is interested in mechanics, and enjoys the working of an observatory. Her personality is singularly beautiful and spirituelle. Astronomy is to her not only a science but a religion, for, dealing as it does with the Unseen in the most grand and elevating way, its study helps, she believes, to the growth in the soul of all that is most spiritual.
In future articles we hope to deal with the triumphs of woman in literature, art, music, and the drama, in medical science, on the platform, and in the world of philanthropy, sociology, and municipal reform.