April 17, 2024

What we learn, we become


This archived article was written by: Nathaniel Woodward

Dear Bridgette,
We’ve come to the end of these letters. It has been a tremendous growing experience for me to re-discover these incredible scientists who make our lives today possible and share them with you. We’ve discovered the amazing world of science through the accomplishment of tremendous people who cast off the shackles of their cultures, stared head on into the abyss and undaunted, changed the world. There is so much I want for you to do in your life, but if there is anything you take from these letters, let it be this. You can do anything. No matter the challenge, obstacle, prejudice, bigotry or difficulty, you have the tools to make your life amazing.
Over the last several months I have written about five incredible pioneers, researchers, educators and motivators who through their dedication made everything we have today possible, who also just happened to be women. I love telling about different scientists, from Newton to Bohr, from Darwin to Crick and everyone in between, but the reason I chose these amazing examples, I have to admit, is because of my own shameful ignorance.
As a young adult, the only women scientists I could recall from memory were Marie Curie and Jane Goodall, terrific examples in their own right. Yet to gain an appreciation for the contribution of their gender to science and humanity, I had to look beyond their chromosome structures and study their research. What I discovered was volumes full of women who changed their fields, not just through research, but by courage. Hopefully, if anyone decided to read our letters, they too would finally see the incredible work done and being done because of these great scientists opening the door for anyone who wishes to participate, regardless of anatomy.
Like Rosalind Franklin, I wish for you to go through life without thought of praise, doing your work for the sake of greatness, to improve the quality of whatever it is you’re doing, not for the glory of recognition.
Like Cecilia Payne, ignore your critics, do what you know to be right, be an original. Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done, which makes it that much better when you are the one to finally do it.
Like Mary Daly, as you live your dreams, do it in a way that makes the dreams of others possible. Dedicate yourself to teach in any setting or field; teach others how to do things they thought they could not.
Like Carol Greider, push through the difficulties of inexperience. Be persistent and patient; learning is difficult, but knowledge is fun. Greider’s greatest discovery showed us that through the stress of everyday life, it takes help from others to remember who you are and why you matter; rely on others to help you along your journey.
Like Patricia Churchland, look beyond what it is front of you. Data can only show you so much. Be innovative, express your opinion, don’t be afraid to say what you believe. That’s why it’s called discovery; you are the first to view something entirely new. Savor in the beauty of your imagination.
Finally, the most important person to be like, to take inspiration from, to emulate, is yourself. Be you. Be whatever it means to be Bridgette. There is nobody better, nobody I could tell you about, no story I could share that shows all the attributes I wish I could be, better than you. As much inspiration as I take from all the great minds I tell you stories about, the inspiration I take from knowing you is the greatest gift I could ever receive.
As we move forward, no matter the challenges we face, the places we live or the stories we make together, we stand on the shoulders of giants, facing forward looking onto a brighter future. In the end, whatever your story tells, remember, you’ll always be my little giant.