Wáng Zhēnyí Laoshí (age of 21 years) at the board erasing her lesson.
“It’s made to believe,
Women are the same as Men;
Are you not convinced,
Daughters can also be Heroic?”
– in a poem by Wang Zhenyi
Who is 王贞仪 [ 王貞儀 ] Wang Zhenyi (1768-1797 C.E.)? She was born into a middle class scholar family during the Qing Dynasty in The Middle Kingdom [China]. She was an Astronomer, Mathematician, and Poetess in her too-short life!
Poems of the Young Scientist/Teacher Wang Zhenyi
“Transiting Tong Pass”
So important is the doorway,
occupying the throat of the mountain
Looking down from the heaven,
The sun sees Yellow river streaming
“Climbing Tai Mountain”
Clouds overcast the hills,
The sun bathes in the sea.
“A Poem of Eight Lines” excerpt
…Village is empty of cooking smoke,
Rich families let grains stored decay;
In wormwood strewed pitiful starved bodies,
Greedy officials yet push farm levying…
Wang Zhenyi was a prolific writer. Most of her works are expositions and explanations of mathematical theorems such as you might encounter in trigonometry or algebra, though she also published a collection of original poetry and original articles on her astronomy research. This included works explaining the movements of equinoxes, as well as, a monograph analyzing the movement of the Moon and describing solar and lunar eclipses.
One described her set-up for carrying out lab experiments on lunar eclipses, a little understood subject. Drawing from her own extensive notebooks of astronomical data and findings from nights of observing, she used a large, round table to represent Earth in two dimensions, a bright lamp as the Sun and a small round hand mirror as the lunar surface. She suspended the bright lamp and the round mirror over the table to demonstrate the lunar eclipse as the earth was put between the lamp and mirror at various positions and dates to match her data to scale.
In 2004, the International Astronomical Union recognized Wang Zhenyi’s achievements by naming a crater on Venus after her.
Why Teacher Wang Zhenyi is a Logo/Role Model?
I first read her poems before I understood her science. She was a daughter of the Qing Dynasty period in the Middle Kingdom or Center of Earth, as China called itself then.
Then I realized the context of her short life and all she accomplished. If a woman on 18th Century Earth – anywhere – could accomplish so much in 29 years, what MORE can we accomplish living twice or three times as long in the advanced 21st Century?
Her image challenges us all!