National Women's Day. The scientists and engineers who made history

Today, March 8, on the occasion of World Women's Day, we celebrate the women who have made exceptional technical contributions to society, telling the story of three personalities, including scientists and engineers, who have made history.


March 8 - National Women's Day

The scientists and engineers who made history

Who are the figures who have innovated the world of seismology and, thanks to their discoveries or inventions, have fostered enormous changes in the engineering sector?

Inge Lehmann (1888 - 1993)
If today we know the center of the Earth a little better we owe it above all to a woman: Inge Lehmann, the Danish geophysicist who first hypothesized that the Earth's core is not a single liquid sphere, but is made up of two parts with very physical properties. different.

Born in Copenhagen in 1888, Lehmann attended the pedagogical-progressive high school and, after studying mathematics, approached the study of geology.

Her interest in this subject became such as to push her to study and observe earthquakes in the depths of the earth, with innovative and at the time revolutionary works, still considered today the fundamental basis of seismological science.

Thanks to her incredible skills she became head of the seismology department at the Geodetic Institute of Denmark, headed by Niels Erik Nörlun, who assigned her the task of setting up seismological observatories in Denmark and Greenland.

With the publication of her scientific article called simply "P", Inge was able to explain and interpret for the first time the so-called P waves, those waves that "inexplicably appear in the spectrum of seismic waves in the Earth's core as reflections due to an inner core" . Inge Lehmann was the first scientist to interpret this particular type of very fast seismic waves and therefore first recorded by seismographs during an earthquake.

Through the analysis of seismograms of the earthquakes that occurred in New Zealand, the scientist discovered in 1936 that the core of the Earth is divided into two parts: an internal one, which according to current knowledge should be solid, and an external one (the one discovered by Oldham ), which presumably behaves like a fluid. During this period Lehmann discovered the seismic discontinuity found at a depth ranging from about 190 to 250 km and which is usually referred to as the "Lehmann discontinuity" in honor of its discoverer.

Inge Lehmann

Marie Tharp (1920-2006)
Marie Tharp was an American geologist and oceanographer.

Born in Michigan in 1920, she earned a BA in geology from the University of Michigan and a masters in petroleum geology, hired by Standard Oil and Gas in Tulsa City, Oklahoma, but quickly found the job unsatisfactory. At the time, in fact, women were not allowed to go on missions in search of gas or oil and she was therefore confined to an office, where her main duties were to collect the maps and data that would then be used by the men during their field missions.

In 1948 he moved to New York at the Lamont Geological Laboratory (now Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) at Columbia University, where he met Bruce Heezen, with whom he embarked on a fruitful and lasting collaboration and compiled the first detailed map of the ocean floor, revealing the presence of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The publication of the Atlantic Ocean floor map as a supplement attached to the June issue of National Geographic represented a milestone in the new knowledge of the oceans that oceanography was developing and strong support for the development of modern plate tectonics.

Tharp's work contributed decisively to the acceptance of the theory by the scientific community plate tectonics, thus involving a disruption in the disciplines of the Earth sciences.

Marie Tharp

Emma Strada (1884-1970)
Born in 1884 in Turin, she is the first woman in Italy to graduate in civil engineering at the Turin Polytechnic, with full marks. Emma Strada, the first Italian engineer, began her career working in the studio of her father Ernesto Strada, also a civil engineer, for whom she designed and supervised the construction of important works: railways, tunnels, aqueducts.

Emma Strada's first project was the construction of an access tunnel to a mine in Ollomont in Val d'Aosta, later, after moving to Calabria (1909-10), she was involved in the design and construction of the Catanzaro railway and construction of the Calabrian branch of the Apulian aqueduct.

In the years 1909-1915 he was the extraordinary assistant of prof. Luigi Pagliani, professor and director of the Industrial Hygiene Cabinet at the University of Turin. In 1925 she was entrusted with the task of designing and directing the excavation operations of a gold mine near Macugnaga, near Monte Rosa.

To promote the work of women in the field of science and technology, in 1957, together with Laura Lange, Ines del Tetto, Lidia Lanzi, Vittoria Ilardi, Anna Enrichetta Amour, Alessandra Bonfanti and Adelina Racheli, she founded the Italian Association of Women Engineers and Architects ( AIDIA), of which she became the first president.

Emma Road

These are just some of the scientists and engineers who have revolutionized the seismic and engineering sector since the early twentieth century. Like many other female personalities, these women have contributed to changing the scientific landscape and the STEM sector, becoming role models to draw inspiration from.


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