Vampire Researcher

Due to some behind-the-scenes digital footprint weirdness, I discovered that Google Scholar was reporting one of my papers as being written in 1759. That got me thinking: asides from outing me as a vampire to the world, who is the Sharon from 1759? And before you ask, no, my skin does not sparkle like diamonds in the sun!

scholar_1759 (2)
Screenshot of the Google Scholar auto-entry dated 1759 instead of 2016

 

This process of looking back to 1759 highlighted my bias about women at that time. I expected to hear about difficult lives and fashions. While some of this was true (panniers!), women writers existed, at least those fortunate to be born into privilege and with understanding male family members to support them.

My colleague Jessie and I come from a science background, and even that was not so strange. The first paper by a woman was published in the Royal Philosophical Society’s Transactions; all credit to Anne Whitfeld and her report on the thunderstorm that struck her home in 1759 (Whitfeld & Van Rixtel, 1759). By the 1780s, Caroline Herschel was discovering comets (Herschel, 1787) and working as an astronomer for the King (Hoskin, 2005). She was the first woman to be made a member of the Royal Society, albeit honorary, and managed to do all that while still taking care of her household duties. Chemist Marie-Anne Lavoisier was born in 1758 and feminist philosopher and author Mary Wollstonecraft in 1759.

Had we been born into the right circumstances, perhaps we would have printed our paper; not everything was so straightforward. I was born in Ireland and studied in Trinity College Dublin. In 1759, they were putting the finishing touches on the west front on College Green, but women would not be permitted to study there until 1904.

References

Herschel, C. (1787). An Account of a New Comet. In a Letter from Miss Caroline Herschel to Charles Blagden, MD Sec. RS. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London77, 1-3. Retrieved from http://rstl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/77/1.full.pdf

Hoskin, M. (2005). Caroline Herschel as observer. Journal for the History of Astronomy36(4), 373-406. Retrieved from http://adsbit.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-iarticle_query?2005JHA….36..373H&classic=YES

Whitfeld, A., & Van Rixtel, J. (1759). An Account of the Effects of a Storm of Thunder and Lightning at Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire, on the 16th of July, 1759: In a Letter from Mrs. Anne Whitfeld. Communicated by Mr. John van Rixtel, F. R. S. Philosophical Transactions (1683-1775), 51, 282-286. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/105375

 

Getting organised

list-372766_640As I mentioned, I have not been doing so well for the last couple of years. This year, my aim is to find ways to live and work more sustainably.

Oliver Burkeman raised an interesting point about how our to-do lists are overlong and  easily get out of control. I am as fond of lists as Oliver – goals to aim for, MS memory prompts and work priorities. However, my lists were indeed getting longer, I was adding new tasks and rarely crossing any off. I was feeling stressed and dissatisfied.

A recent post on the British Psychological Society blog by Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) about work/life boundaries explored this topic further. Alex reported on an article by Smit (2015) which links feelings of increased anxiety with tasks that remain undone. Smit suggests having an incomplete to-do list makes it difficult to disconnect, in effect extending the working day.

Both articles inspired me to rethink my process of planning and organisation. I like starting the day with a clear idea of what needs to be done, so I needed a method that worked. My daily list now has a maximum of five key activities. It has become fun to celebrate new and unexpected tasks that each day brings; additional unplanned tasks become a bonus. If anything on the list is not finished at the end of the day, I leave a step-by-step plan of how that task will be completed before I leave the office.

I’m aware it is still January, but I’m resolutely optimistic. Granted, I usually am optimistic, that’s my default setting. This is working well so far though!

Smit, B. (2015). Successfully leaving work at work: The self-regulatory underpinnings of psychological detachment. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. DOI: 10.1111/joop.12137. [Open access article]

Waking up the blog…

Right, I’m back. No honest, I am!

This last year has taught me that, try as you might, you can’t win out over medication. The meds I was on for the last three years left me with chronic fatigue. I described it to a colleague as trying to run up a mountain through a treacle downpour.

Thankfully, I’ve had a meds change – whoop! It has required time to recharge and set new targets. However, all that means I can get back to writing, thinking, dreaming and, of course, studying.

Did I say I wasn’t going to study anymore? I have no recollection of saying that (innocent face). Ah sure, isn’t all life a learning experience 🙂

Roll on 2016 – and hello from the one and only 2015 post!