Nan Dieter Conklin: A Life in Science
by N.D. Conklin, © 2001
Modified on Wednesday, 13-Jun-2007 10:43:53 EDT by Ellen Bouton
Editor's note: This suite of Web pages, Nan Dieter Conklin: A Life in Science, was written in 2001. Dr. Conklin's book, Two Paths to Heaven's Gate (published 2006), greatly expands this material and discusses both her personal and professional life. Further information and an order form for the book may be found here.
This is the chronicle of a life in science. The science is astronomy and the scientist a woman who happened often to be in the right place at the right time.
The first time was the fall of 1946 when I was a junior at Goucher College. I had just begun a major in mathematics when I met Dr. Helen Dodson. She was a graduate of Goucher doing her own solar research at the University of Michigan - rare, to say the least. At just this time she decided that she would like a break (I never knew quite why) and came back to her alma mater to teach. And teach she did. After two weeks in her first astronomy course I knew I had found what I wanted. Helen was more than a teacher; she was the living proof that it could be done - a woman doing her own research in a field I longed to enter. Her stories of working with Bernard Lyot using his newly developed device, the coronagraph, to photograph the solar corona without a total eclipse were tantalizing. And her description of his observatory on the Pic du Midi in the Pyrenees and the journey on skis to reach it only added a touch of magic. When I learned that she sometimes sailed across Lake Angelus to reach the McMath-Hulbert Solar Observatory where she worked, I was lost (or perhaps found).