Nancy Roman in 2015
May 16, 1925 |
|Institutions||Yerkes Observatory, University of Chicago, NASA, Naval Research Laboratory|
|Alma mater||Swarthmore College, University of Chicago|
|Known for||Planning of the Hubble Space Telescope|
I had left teaching, which I enjoyed, because I realized I couldn't get tenure at a research university.
One of the reasons I like working with schools is to try to convince women that they can be scientists and that science can be fun.
I wondered had I really oversold the Hubble. I have to admit that, since, I have been convinced that I didn't.
Certainly by the time I was in seventh grade, I knew I had to have a long education if I wanted to become an astronomer, but I figured I'd try it, and if I didn't get far enough, I could always end up teaching in high school or math or physics.
Looking through the atmosphere is somewhat like looking through a piece of old, stained glass. The glass has defects in it, so the image is blurred from that.
It was probably my parents who inspired me most. My father was a scientist and answered my scientific questions, while my mother took me on walks and showed me birds and plants. She also took me out at night and showed me the constellations and the aurora.
I do not remember exactly when I became interested in astronomy, but I know it was at a very young age. I did organize an astronomy club for my friends at the age of 11. We would meet once a week to learn about the constellations.
I still remember asking my high school guidance teacher for permission to take a second year of algebra instead of a fifth year of Latin. She looked down her nose at me and sneered, 'What lady would take mathematics instead of Latin?'
At Swarthmore, the Dean of Women was very opposed to women going into science or engineering – so opposed that if she couldn't talk a girl out of it, she just never had anything more to do with her for the four years she was there.
My career was quite unusual, so my main advice to someone interested in a career similar to my own is to remain open to change and new opportunities. I like to tell students that the jobs I took after my Ph.D. were not in existence only a few years before.