Edmée Chandon, born on 21 November 1885 in the 11th arrondissement of Paris and died on 8 March 1944 in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, was a French astronomer. On March 1, 1912, she became the first professional woman astronomer working in France at the Paris Observatory. She was also the first French woman to obtain a doctorate in mathematical sciences in March 1930.
Nicole-Reine Lepaute, born Étable on 5 January 1723 in Paris, died in the same city on 6 December 1788, was a French calculator and astronomer. Together with Caroline Herschel and the Marquise du Châtelet, she was one of the leading women scientists of the Age of Enlightenment.
Her work is often included in that of other authors, including Jérôme de Lalande and her husband. But, if we are to believe Lalande, who loved her very much, she was “a master rather than an emulator “. In particular, she helped to calculate the precise date of the return of Halley’s Comet of 1759 and was a major contributor to the calculation of the astronomical ephemeris Knowledge of Time.
The site of La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle watchmaking town-planning consists of two towns situated close to one another in a remote environment in the Swiss Jura mountains, on land ill-suited to farming. Their planning and buildings reflect watchmakers’ need of rational organization. Planned in the early 19th century, after extensive fires, the towns owed their existence to this single industry. Their layout along an open-ended scheme of parallel strips on which residential housing and workshops are intermingled reflects the needs of the local watchmaking culture that dates to the 17th century and is still alive today. The site presents outstanding examples of mono-industrial manufacturing-towns which are well preserved and still active. The urban planning of both towns has accommodated the transition from the artisanal production of a cottage industry to the more concentrated factory production of the late 19th and 20th centuries. The town of La Chaux-de-Fonds was described by Karl Marx as a “huge factory-town” in Das Kapital where he analyzed the division of labour in the watchmaking industry of the Jura.
At the crossroads of science, art and technology, the skills related to the craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics are used to create watchmaking objects designed to measure and indicate time (watches, pendulum clocks, clocks and chronometers), art automata and mechanical androids, sculptures and animated paintings, music boxes and songbirds. These technical and artistic objects feature a mechanical device that generates movements or emits sounds. Though generally hidden, the mechanisms can also be visible, which contributes to the aesthetics and poetic dimension of the objects.
The Jura Arc is an area in which craftsmanship remains particularly dynamic thanks to the presence of highly qualified craftspeople and companies that promote the skills and a full range of training options. Historically, entire families were involved in the practice, developing apprenticeship practices and professional and family alliances. Skills were initially learned in training schools. Nowadays, practitioners also share their know-how via online blogs, forums and tutorials and collaborative open source projects. As well as serving an economic function, the skills have also shaped the architecture, urban landscape and everyday social reality of the regions concerned. The practice conveys many values such as good workmanship, punctuality, perseverance, creativity, dexterity and patience, and the infinite quest for precision and the intangible aspect of time measurement give the practice a strong philosophical dimension.
I was ready to head home after giving a lecture about Inferior—my book documenting the history of sexism in science and its repercussions today—when a soft-spoken woman approached me. She told me she was studying for a Ph.D. in computer science at a British university and was the only woman in her group. Her supervisor wouldn’t stop making sexist jokes. He never picked her for workshops or conferences.
“Every interaction is awkward for me. I feel intimidated,” she said. “Most of the time I just find myself counting every minute.” Her plan was to see out the final years of her Ph.D., leave the university, and never look back.
I’ve had hundreds of these fleeting encounters with women scientists and engineers, all over the world, in the two years since publication of the book—which seems to reflect back at women the kinds of sexism that they experience in their own lives. When these women approach me at events to quietly share their stories, I’ve found what they want above all is empathy, to be told they aren’t imagining their misery. Their accounts of discrimination, marginalization, harassment, and abuse reinforce that, though progress has been made, there’s a long way to go.
“Women scientists” sounded like a sweet oxymoron to the ears of a largely male-dominated research community. Many of them were shunned by the awards or had their discoveries stolen because they were women. For centuries, female researchers had to “volunteer” to assist members of science faculties, and their major discoveries were attributed to their male colleagues and their names were removed from experimental protocols. They often had to fight for even the “natural recognition given to their husbands or colleagues,” says Anne Lincoln, a sociologist at Texas Methodist University who has studied the barriers to women in the history of science. According to a study conducted in 2014, women are still under-represented in science: only a third of researchers are women. Yet many women scientists have participated in discoveries that have changed our world. On International Women’s Rights Day, National Geographic is honoring seven women scientists who have made major discoveries without always receiving the credit they deserve, simply because they were born women.
Born in 1868 in Massachusetts, Henrietta Swan Leavitt is an American astronomer. In 1893, she was recruited at the Harvard University Observatory to join “Harvard Computers”, a group of women hired to establish mathematical processing of astronomical data; women were not allowed to use telescopes at the time. Henrietta Leavitt was responsible for examining photographic plates taken at different periods in order to measure and classify the brightness of stars. In 1908 and 1912, she published the results of her work on the Magellanic Clouds, a group of dwarf galaxies. Her observations enabled her to detect the periodic variation in the luminosity of certain stars, the cepheids. She thus established the period-luminosity ratio, known as Leavitt’s Law, which has enabled astronomers to develop a system for calculating distances in the universe and thus measure the distance between our planet and other galaxies. Henrietta Leavitt was appointed head of the Department of Stellar Photometry at Harvard Observatory in 1921, a few months before her death. Gösta Mittag-Leffler, a Swedish mathematician, attempted to nominate her for the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1926. He was unsuccessful, as the prize could not be awarded posthumously. But an asteroid and a lunar crater were named Leavitt in honour of the astronomer.
The number of selflessly committed people has remained constant in Switzerland over the last 20 years.
Six out of ten people do voluntary work in Switzerland. Special attention is paid to this commitment on Saturday, International Volunteer Day.
The aim of this day is to highlight voluntary work, as Benevol, one of Switzerland’s many voluntary organisations, has written on its website. Voluntary workers are rarely in the limelight, but their commitment is essential for social integration, economic growth, cultural life and the functioning of democracy, according to Benevol.
The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) also welcomed this commitment on Twitter on Saturday. “We say THANK YOU! To all those who are committed to their neighbours, families, senior citizens and young people. Your commitment is worth its weight in gold. Let us continue to show solidarity”, he wrote.
On behalf of 28 organisations, the Swiss Red Cross presented a national manifesto for volunteering to parliament on 17 November. The text calls for more promotion and recognition of voluntary work.
650 million working hours
According to the Swiss Red Cross, volunteers provide more than 650 million hours of work in Switzerland every year, worth some CHF 34 billion.
According to the Swiss Public Benefit Society (SPSU), the number of people who have made a selfless commitment has remained constant over the past 20 years: 62% of Swiss people aged 15 and over regularly volunteer their time to help others, society or nature.
Play and leisure clubs, cultural associations and social and charitable organisations are popular among volunteers. Men are more present in formal associations, such as sports clubs, while women are more numerous in informal activities, such as self-help.
Some twenty new museums have opened in fifteen years in the canton, few have closed. A vitality that is based on the passion of some, but also on the diversity of the canton.
What is the connection between the typewriter, Sherlock Holmes, art brut and basketball? Each of these four statements has its own museum in the canton. And this is just the tip of an iceberg of unsuspected depth. In 2016, the Swiss Museums Association Museums.ch counted one hundred museums in the canton of Vaud, compared with eighty fifteen years ago. This raises questions about their model, their funding and their chances of survival.
“One hundred is enormous, but it’s fairly proportional to the population and the size of the canton,” says Nicole Minder, head of the Service des affaires culturelles (SERAC) of the canton of Vaud. The Swiss figures recently published by the Federal Statistical Office prove her right: the country has 1111 museums for its 8.2 million inhabitants (compared with 778,000 for the canton). According to the head of department, the diversity of the proposals also echoes that of our large territory.
The snag is that, although several museums open every year (and a few less close), the number of visitors does not increase. And although museums are the most visited cultural institutions in Switzerland (72%, including zoos), ahead of musical performances (71%) and monuments and sites (70%), and far ahead of the cinema (66%) and theatre (47%) (FSO 2015 figures), their attendance is necessarily “diluted” by these openings, without their costs being reduced.
Small but strong
The nine cantonal museums, which count their visitors in the tens of thousands, feel this dilution, as do some municipal museums. The new “big” proposals, such as Nest or Chaplin’s World, do not seem to suffer from this, as their attendance figures are so good. This may reassure the future Aquatis or the Lake Geneva Museum and its planned extension.
As for the “small” museums contacted, where visitors number in the hundreds, there is no real change. “In our case, it varies a lot, between 200 and 300 a year,” explains Pierre Deriaz, president of the Musée du Vieux-Baulmes for the past twenty years. At 5 francs a ticket, you can understand why the budget is tight and why the dues of the hundred or so members are vital. When asked about the voluntary work of the committee, which plays the role of tour guide, Pierre Deriaz burst out laughing: “That, in any case!”. Before changing his mind: “Our curator receives a small salary, which the rent of 700 francs for a dilapidated flat in the museum house enables us to pay him.
At the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Lucens, the committee also works on a voluntary basis, as do almost 40% of the museum staff in Switzerland (a total of 19,500 in 2014). “We pay the guides and the caretaker, thanks to the admissions (editor’s note: 962 in 2016) and the one-off events that we organise,” explains curator and vice-president Vincent Delay. Despite renewed interest in the Conan Doyle character, linked to recent games, films and series, which has boosted attendance for the past six years, the 2016 financial year ended with a deficit of 1,600 francs. “It is in fact a decrease in capital…” says Vincent Delay. Delay insists that in order to get by and not nibble away at its savings, the museum must create events, temporary exhibitions and attract sponsors.
Created in 1943 for the Vieux-Baulmes and in 1966 for the Sherlock, the two museums have had their ups and downs but have never closed down. The support of the Commune in both cases (punctual for the first, free premises for the other) but also the vitality of those who work to make the places exist explain this. In Baulmes, Pierre Deriaz is delighted to be able to hand over the baton to the next generation of young inhabitants of the village. And, in Lucens, Vincent Delay, also president of the Société holmésienne de Suisse romande, insists on the dynamism instilled by these organisations. As a nod to his study character, he reminds us that the Pipe Museum in Lausanne was not so lucky: “It closed down when its owner died…”.
Also in Lausanne, the Shoe Museum also relies on its founders, Marquita and Serge Volken. Established in Le Rôtillon, the shoemakers’ quarter, for fourteen years now, it opens every first weekend of the month in the afternoon “and 24 hours a day if you look from outside”, smiles Marquita Volken. The curators have decided not to charge an entrance fee. “With the entertainment tax, we would have had to hire a trustee for the management. With 1,000 visitors a year, we can’t afford it.”
The very small institution (12 m2 + 1.5 m2 showcase for temporary exhibitions), which presents rigorous copies of leather shoes from prehistoric times to the 19th century, has never obtained any support from the City, even though it has requested it twice. “The aim of archaeology is not to make money,” philosopher Marquita Volken said. Luckily our rent is low and we sometimes receive some surprising donations from visitors.” In Vevey, Sandra Romy also relies on donations from visitors, who are invited to pay a free “outing”. Thanks to this, the curator of the Museum of the Absurd (also 12 m2!), one of the newest of the small museums, is able to pay for the artists she exhibits.
Support from the authorities?
To launch her museum, first in Biel, Sandra Romy organised a crowdfunding campaign, the 9600 francs of which enabled her to pay a year’s rent. But her two requests to the City only resulted in a modest 300 francs for a vernissage… She expects her recent move to Vevey to be a nice improvement. “Better situated, better publicised, the museum should attract more than the 450 visitors to Biel,” the curator hopes. The Ville d’Images also supported the launch of the structure with a subsidy of 5,000 francs. The Canton has also put its hand in the purse and paid a start-up grant of 4,000 francs.
This support is not engraved in marble. As far as the Canton is concerned, they can be granted on a case-by-case basis. “Our various commissions can provide one-off support for cultural mediation activities or projects such as an artist’s catalogue,” explains Nicole Minder. But the law on movable and intangible heritage (LPMI) clearly focuses on the nine cantonal institutions”. The head of SERAC believes that not everything can be put into museums. All the more so as the 21st century offers new forms of heritage. We will have to make choices about what we want to preserve.”