Google has honoured Italian physicist and academic, Laura Bassi, the first woman to obtain a doctorate in science and first lecture to earn a salary.
Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 289th anniversary of Laura Maria Catarina Bassi defending her 49 theses to earn a PhD from the University of Bologna. The Doodle honours her accomplishments and her efforts to give women their rightful place in academics.
WHO WAS LAURA BASSI?
- Laura Bassi was born in 1711 to a wealthy family in Bologna, Papal States, and the region known today as Italy.
- Due in part to her father’s financial standing, Bassi was privately educated from ages 5 to 20 in subjects ranging from Latin and mathematics to logic and metaphysics.
- By the age of 20, Laura Bassi caught the attention of Prospero Lambertini, later known as Pope Benedict XIV who became her patron and arranged opportunities for her to display her scientific prowess.
- On April 17, 1732, the occasion being celebrated by today’s Google Doodle, Bassi publicly defended her 49 theses in a debate with four professors of the University of Bologna. A rare achievement at a time in which women were largely excluded from higher education.
- For this successful defense, Bassi was awarded a doctorate in science, becoming the first woman to do so, and only the second woman in history to earn a philosophy doctorate (PhD). The public revered Laura Bassi, calling her a “Bolognese Minerva,” in reference to the Roman goddess of wisdom.
- According to Google, Bassi continually fought for gender equality in education throughout her trailblazing career; efforts that culminated in 1776 when the Bologna Academy of Sciences appointed her a professor of experimental physics making Bassi the first woman offered an official teaching position at a European university.
- Bassi died on February 20, 1778 in Bologna.
GOGGLE DOODLE FOR “BOLOGNESE MINERVA”
The main focus of the artwork is portrait of Laura Bassi is surrounded by textbooks, each appropriately colored for the letters of the “Google” logo. In the background, you can see elements of mathematics and physics, including a Cartesian plane and a Newton’s cradle.
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