My heroine this Ada Lovelace Day is Dr Elizabeth Flint of Christchurch, New Zealand. Dr Flint is New Zealand’s leading expert on desmids, which are single-celled freshwater algae of considerable beauty.
Dr Flint took her MSc degree at what was then Canterbury College in 1931. She moved to England where she monitored London’s water supply before working for the RAF’s Operational Research Section in World War Two. She returned to New Zealand in the fifties and wrote the three definitive books on desmid taxonomy.
Betty is also my mother-in-law’s godmother. I met her on a trip to Christchurch in, I think, January 2001. We talked nonstop for two hours at the cafe in the botanic gardens – for all her stature she is generous and curious and pragmatic and fiercely funny – and then she dropped us at the airport in the 1958 Ford Consul that she had bought brand new. She was working then but has since retired, although not particularly early: Betty will be 101 this year. She was, and is, tireless.
To women of her generation – to the Bettys and Rosalind Franklins and Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hoppers and to my Auntie Barb – my geek feminist sisters and I owe more than I can possibly say. These women light my way and let me see what I can be, and what my daughters can be.