*This post is my contribution to Ada Lovelace Day in which over a thousand bloggers are celebrating the women they admire in technology. *
I first met Lisa Jardine in a small interview room on the Queen Mary campus in Mile End. She expressed absolute delight that I wanted to switch from a degree in physics to one in English literature – not because I was abandoning physics, but because I didn’t see an interest in both in incompatible. A little over three years later, I met her for the last time, on stage, as I was awarded my degree.
“I didn’t expect to do this well,” I said, as my 2:1 was awarded.
“I didn’t expect you to, either,” she said with a huge smile.
I doubt she recalls either event – after all, dozens of students pass through her doors every year – but the two, and the time I spent studying under her in the time between, have been a huge inspiration to me. Here was a woman who had little time for the traditional boundaries between art and science, who seemed to see them all as part of the human endeavour.
You only need to take a look at her recent publication record to see where her interests lie: Robert Hooke, Sir Christopher Wren and the Scientific Revolution. I remember listening rapt to her account of rediscovering the additional purpose of the Monument as a site for experiments. History, science, literature and technology: none of these are distinct fields in her work, but fields which can inform each other in search of insight and understanding.
More recently, her work as chair of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority has shown her ability to work constructively on one of the most vexed and politically-charged technological issues of our day.
One of the reasons I have fallen in love with blogging as a medium is that it enables debate and discussion between people on a whole range of issues. It allows the blurring of traditional boundaries and the positive use of technology for the growth of human understanding. And I might never have realised the possibilities without those three years studying with Professor Jardine.