Forgotten Women of Science

Forgotten Women of Science

A Room of Her Own, Tribute to Forgotten Women of Science, 2018

My installation will feature a medieval architectural structure called Majlis and framed prints.  In the medieval Arab world Majlis referred to a place of a private gathering, where guests were received by the king. In modern Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages the term carries a variety of connotations. In Persian, for example, the term conjures up several meanings from gathering places to parties and a place of democratic and parliamentary debates. My installation Majlis will turn the traditional male dominated space of the king and his entourage into a feminine space. In the public imagination women in the medieval (Islamic) world were confined to domestic spaces such as harem. However, history shows that there were many powerful and intelligent women who enjoyed professional careers in a wide range of fields and generators of cutting-edge science.

My harem looking cubical structure, Majlis, with sheer draperies will invite the visitors inside to get to know the forgotten female scientists of the ancient, medieval and early modern eras. Most of these women scientists, didn’t receive enough recognition due to their gender. In the Majlis the viewers can lean on cushions which are laid on the floor. Each cushion has a portrait of a female scientist, who contributed to preservation or advancement of science. Each image accompanies hashtagged words from the women’s biography. The hashtags are meant to conjure up the recent #metoo and #timesup movements.  The viewers then see a video projection on the ceiling composed of the celestial and mathematical diagrams or medicinal remedies, which drawn or developed by these women scientists. The cushions and the drapery are aimed to provide a vision of a domestic and sensual space, where these women would have been perceived but simultaneously, they form a locus for intellectual encounters.

Outside the Majlis installation, the same portraits of these women scientists are displayed as framed images on the walls with card catalog boxes underneath them. Each card catalog box holds biographical texts from each female scientist on vintage library style cards for visitors to read.

Majlis installation includes cushions that have female scientists’ images, laid on the floor, and projector on the floor projecting celestial and mathematical images to the ceiling,
the structure has sheer drapery on all 4 sides, which invites the visitors inside to sit down and observe the projection and experience the space. Dimension: 7x7x7 feet
3-D rendition by Parham Karimi, Toronto, Canada

Alternative installation for Majlis in case a gallery can’t accommodate a floor structure. Views 1 & 2, showcase two walls (in the gallery),
cushions that have female scientists’ images on a bench for visitors to sit on, draperies and a projector on the wall, above the bench, that project images across
Dimension approximately: 7x7x7 feet

Example of images printed on cushions, Hypatia of Alexandria and Lubna of Cordoba

#Hypatia, 2018, Silkscreen and color graphite on paper, 18×24 in
After Hypatia of Alexandria, a philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician who was brutally murdered due to her intelligence and influential role in politics

Description:#Hypatia, depicts Hypatia of Alexandria, a philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician. Hypatia was the advisor to the Roman prefect of Alexandria. As the political atmosphere of Alexandria shifted from a relatively open society to a conservative Christian one, Hypatia became subject to criticism and violence. Eventually, she was brutally murdered by a mob of Christian monks, who accused her of preventing the reconciliation between the bishop of Alexandria and prefect. Owing to her influential role in science and politics, Hypatia remained strong in the collective imagination of Europeans. During the Middle Ages, Hypatia was co-opted as a symbol of Christian virtue and during the Enlightenment, she became a symbol of opposition to Catholicism. In the twentieth century, Hypatia became seen as an icon for women’s rights and a precursor to the feminist movement. #Hypatia, features Hypatia under the arc derived from The School of Athens, a fresco by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, where she was depicted. The mathematical diagrams are targeting her neck, as a metaphor for her death due to her intelligence.

Example of framed portrait Hypatia of Alexandria, displayed on the wall with card catalog box underneath it
Card catalog box holds biographical texts from the female scientist on vintage library cards for visitors to read
Frame: 18×24 in      Box: 7x22x6 in

#Lubna of Cordoba, 2018, Silkscreen on paper, 24×18 in

Image of Lubna of Cordoba, 10th c., under the arc of Cordoba palace with her mathematical diagrams. Lubna of Córdoba was an Andalusian intellectual and mathematician famous for her knowledge of grammar and the quality of her poetry. Originally a slave girl of Spanish origin, she later became the secretary of the Caliph of CórdobaAl-Hakam II, a great defender of culture. In the library of Córdoba, Lubna was in charge of writing, and translating many manuscripts. Along with Hasdai ibn Shaprut, she was the driving force behind the creation of the famous library of Medina Azahara, which was home to more than 500,000 books.

#Trota of Salerno, 2018, silkscreen on paper, 24×15 in

Trota of Salerno was a medical practitioner and medical writer in the southern Italian coastal town of Salerno who lived sometime in the early or middle decades of the 12th century. Her fame spread as far away as France and England in the 12th and 13th centuries. A Latin text that gathered some of her therapies (and even recounted a cure she had performed) was incorporated into an ensemble of treatises on women’s medicine that came to be known as the Trotula. Trota’s authentic work (including a collection of her cures, known as the Practical Medicine According to Trota) was forgotten until it was rediscovered in the late 20th century. He image is depicted under a diagram of urine samples as symbol of her medical research.

#Merit-Ptah, 2018, Silkscreen on paper, 18×24 in

Image of Merit-Ptah the chief physician of the pharaoh’s court during the Second Dynasty of ancient Egypt. Merit-Ptah is regarded as the earliest recorded woman physicians. Merit-Ptah’s picture can be found on a tomb in Egypt’s Valley of Kings. The “Chief Physician” inscription left on her grave by her High Priest son implies that she held a position in which she taught and supervised physicians, and that she attended to the pharaoh. Her image is depicted under the Egyptian architecture with medical tools.