The Women Scientists of Wishful Thinking
I was first struck with the inspiration for Wishful Thinking when reading the Harry Potter series with my older son. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a book like this for moms, I thought, and obviously the power a mom would need would be the ability to be everywhere for everybody all of the time! From the beginning, however, I wanted my tale to be sparked by science, not magic. This was partly because I have always been an amateur lover of physics, from avidly following the hunt for Higgs boson to snuggling up with my kids on the couch to watch Cosmos. It was also because I thought that the woman who inspired the voice, attitude and singularity of the character Dr. Diane Sexton—Diane Middlebrook, my mentor and friend—would have preferred her namesake to be a brilliant physicist rather than a fairy.
Researching the women scientists an inventor like Dr. Sexton would admire was one of the things I loved most about writing this book. In what seemed like an omen, just weeks after starting work on the novel I was riding the subway and opened the Science section of The New York Times to an article about Charles Babbage, believed by some to have invented the first computer (he called it an Analytical Engine). With computing and its power very much on my mind, I read on, and could hardly contain my pleasure at discovering that Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace and daughter of the poet Lord Byron, is considered by many to be the world’s first computer programmer. Augusta did not end up in Wishful Thinking, but, as with Mary Somerville, I am including her here in my gallery of the women scientists of Wishful Thinking as additional sources of indispensable inspiration. The descriptions of these women and their accomplishments are just brief thumbnails–I encourage you to dive deeper and read more about each of them!