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When YY started college at Howard University as a mechanical engineering student, there were three things she swore she’d never do: marry a tall man, become a teacher, and work for the government. But love and life had other plans, and YY soon discovered the difficulty of entering private industry as one of the few Black women in her field. After success at RCA-Victor and Frankford Arsenal, YY moved back to the South, where Brown v. Board of Education had recently integrated public schools, prompting a violent backlash.
With a librarian mother and a physician father, YY was brought up in a supportive, educated, and prosperous Black enclave of Louisville, Kentucky. Her parents nurtured her knack for engineering. She got her start as a young child when she repaired the family toaster. An early introduction to a Black pilot group inspired her to fly planes, and she applied to the University of Louisville, where she hoped to study engineering and eventually aeronautics—until she learned her race disqualified her.
Yvonne Y. Clark, known as YY throughout her career, has also been nicknamed “The First Lady of Engineering,” because of her groundbreaking achievements as a Black female mechanical engineer. Season 3 of Lost Women of Science traces her trajectory, from her unconventional childhood interest in fixing appliances to civil rights breakthroughs in the segregated South; from her trailblazing role at historically Black colleges and universities to her work at NASA. What can YY teach us about what it means to be the first in a scientific field, especially as a Black woman in America?
Carol Sutton Lewis, host of the podcast Ground Control Parenting, has long been interested in Black history. This season, she’s joining Lost Women of Science as a cohost to help tell the story of the mechanical engineer, Yvonne Young Clark. Known as Professor Clark to her students and YY to her engineering colleagues, YY’s career spanned academia and industry. She was a dedicated STEM educator and a champion of historically Black colleges and universities. Alongside cohost Katie Hafner, Carol will trace YY’s life and work through fascinating chapters of Black history, from the promises of Reconstruction to integration efforts at NASA.
BONUS: The Weather Myth

BONUS: The Weather Myth


We saw the story over and over again: computer programmer Klára Dán von Neumann was a pioneer in weather forecasting. But when we talked to Thomas Haigh, a historian who studies Klári’s work, he said he’s found absolutely no evidence of this. How did this weather myth start? We set out to answer that question, and in the process, we asked this: Why is it so tempting to credit the wrong person, even when that false credit is given with the best of intentions? Note: we’d like to acknowledge the operators of the ENIAC who ran the 1950 weather simulation, Homé McAllister and Clyde Hauff.
E5: La Jolla

E5: La Jolla


After Johnny’s death, Klári becomes the keeper of his legacy. It’s an exhausting, full-time commitment that takes her out of the computing world for good. She marries her fourth husband, a physicist, and moves to a Southern California beach town. She resolves to settle down, and starts writing a memoir. We discuss her legacy in computing and beyond, and the current state of gender and programming. Note: this episode includes content that could be upsetting. We’ll be talking about depression and self-harm.
E4: Netherworld

E4: Netherworld


After World War II, tensions build between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Scientists at Los Alamos continue developing nuclear weapons, helped by the recently-reconfigured ENIAC. Using a statistical method called Monte Carlo, they optimize nuclear weapons through computer simulations. In these simulations, physics is neither purely experimental nor theoretical–it’s both, creating what historian Peter Galison calls a “netherland…at once nowhere and everywhere.” And Klári finds herself immersed in this sort of netherworld, turning nuclear physics into code.
When John von Neumann runs into fellow mathematician Herman Goldstine at a train station, Goldstine clues him into a new powerful computer called the ENIAC that is being constructed to help with the war effort, and Johnny immediately grasps the machine’s enormous potential. Though the computer is not completed in time to be useful in the second world war, it finds new purpose in the war’s aftermath. Soon, Klári von Neumann is enlisted to instruct the machine what to do, and in doing so, becomes one of the first coders. This episode takes a deep dive into the workings of the ENIAC and the origins of computing in the 1940s.
E2: Women Needed

E2: Women Needed


With John von Neumann absorbed in work, Klári struggles to find a niche in her new suburban home while dealing with devastating losses. A new chapter opens for Klári when the U.S. finally enters the war and women are called into the workforce.
E1: The Grasshopper

E1: The Grasshopper


To understand how Klára Dán von Neumann arrived at computer programming, we need to first understand where she came from. Born in Budapest to a wealthy Jewish family, Klári grew up surrounded by artists, playwrights, and intellectuals. Her first marriage, to an inveterate gambler, took her on a tour of Europe’s casinos, and in one of them, she had a chance encounter with the famous mathematician, John von Neumann.
The first modern-style code executed on a computer was written in the 1940s by a woman named Klára Dán von Neumann–or Klári to her family and friends. And the historic program she wrote was used to optimize nuclear weapons. This season, we dive into this fascinating moment in postwar America through Klári’s work. We explore the evolution of early computers, the vital role women played in early programming, and the inescapable connection between computing and war.
BONUS: The Resignation

BONUS: The Resignation


In 1949, at the height of his career, Rustin McIntosh, the director of pediatrics at Columbia University’s Babies Hospital, submitted his letter of resignation. Dr. Scott Baird, who wrote a biography on Dorothy Andersen, takes us back to this pivotal moment, which occurred at the dawn of pediatric pathology in the United States. Through archival resources, Scott explores the institutional tensions that led to this abrupt resignation. At the eye of the storm is a character we’ve come to know well, perhaps the most important person working in pediatric pathology at the time: Dr. Dorothy Andersen. 
In our final episode, we explore Dorothy Andersen’s legacy—what she left behind and how her work has lived on since her death. Describing her mentor’s influence on her life and career, Dr. Celia Ores gives us a rare look into what Dr. Andersen was really like. We then turn to researchers, doctors, and patients, who fill us in on the progress that has grown from Dr. Andersen’s initial work. These major developments include the discovery of the cystic fibrosis gene, the tremendous impact of the drug Trikafta, and the lifesaving potential of gene editing techniques. 
A missing portrait of Dr. Andersen takes us on a journey into the perils of memorialization—and who gets to be remembered. Dr. Scott Baird hunts for the portrait, and Drs. Nientara Anderson and Lizzy Fitzsousa, former medical students at Yale, explain how, in today’s diverse communities, “dude walls” can have an insidious effect on those who walk past them every day.
E2: The Matilda Effect

E2: The Matilda Effect


A passionate outdoorswoman, a “rugged individualist,” and a bit of an enigma—the few traces Dr. Andersen left behind give us glimpses into who she was. In this episode, we track down people determined to stitch together her life. Our associate producer, Sophie McNulty, rummages through the basement of Dr. Andersen’s colleague for clues about the elusive pathologist. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, pediatric intensivist Scott Baird suggests we take a second look at the conventional wisdom surrounding the evolution of cystic fibrosis research in the 1950s.
E1: The Question Mark

E1: The Question Mark


When Dr. Dorothy Andersen confronted a slew of confounding infant deaths, she suspected the accepted diagnosis wasn’t right. Her medical sleuthing led to the world’s understanding of cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects the lungs, the pancreas, and a host of other organs. But hers is by no means a household name. Who was this scientist, and how did she come to quietly make such an important medical contribution?
When Dr. Dorothy Andersen confronted a slew of confounding infant deaths, she knew the accepted diagnosis couldn’t be right. Her medical detective work led to our current understanding of Cystic Fibrosis, a disease that circuitously impacts the pancreas and lungs. But she is by no means a household name, and the details of her life get scarcer every day. Who was this scientist, and how did she come to quietly make such an important medical contribution?
For every Marie Curie or Rosalind Franklin whose story has been told, hundreds of female scientists remain unknown to the public at large. We illuminate the lives and work of a diverse array of groundbreaking scientists who, because of time, place and gender, have gone largely unrecognized. Each season focuses on one scientist, putting her narrative into context, explaining not just the science but also the social and historical conditions in which she lived and worked. We also bring these stories to the present, painting a full picture of how her work endures.
Comments (3)

Fatemeh Dqn

that was excellent 👌🏼😍

Sep 27th

Sara Shahriari

this podcast is amazing 👏 😍 keep going 💪🏻

Jun 23rd


m.h xxxx

Jun 9th
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