Elizabeth Blackburn. Elizabeth Blackburn. Elizabeth Blackburn. They say if you repeat something thrice it might come true and it has; Professor Elizabeth Blackburn has become the first Australian woman to win a Nobel Prize. Like the luminescent fish who exist in the dark matter of the ocean and light the abyss, Elizabeth Blackburn, Nobel Laureate has put paid to 20th century nonsense about the human brain having a birthsex and the deduction arising from this faulty premise; that women do not belong in the sciences, or belong only by relative degree to men.
Pioneering work on chromosomes, Professor Blackburn has stretched her fine mind across disciplines to create a holistic hypothesis linking aging to psychological stress, chromosomal damage and testing ameliorative natural treatments such as meditation. In between radical brilliance, Professor Blackburn has made time to mentor students, create a family friendly laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and agitate for greater rights for women in science. Alicia Keys' 'Superwoman' may be an appropriate theme song here.
Perhaps the most exquisite twist to this story is that Blackburn has won the prize in 2009, the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft, that great feminist philosopher-trailblazer who wrote the first treatise arguing for women’s rights, including the right to education ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ in 1797. Wollstonecraft wrote, ‘Virtue can only flourish among equals’ and, ‘I love my man as my fellow; but his scepter, real, or usurped, extends not to me, unless the reason of an individual demands my homage; and even then the submission is to reason, and not to man.’
Echoing Wollstonecraft through the ages, Blackburn has questioned why women of reason in science are not given the educational and career opportunities of their male counterparts. Perhaps the expectation remains that women should pay homage, but not to reason?