Aunt Fanny ~

Fanny Cook Gates, 1872-1931

Fanny Cook Gates, 1872-1931

For this bi-weekly family history note (alternating with issues of the original Boomerang), the topic is Fanny Cook Gates, daughter of John Cook Gates and Adelia St. John and sister of John Howard Gates, who was the husband of Mary Edna Carter Gates and father of Beatrice Gates (who would become Beatrice Shuttleworth, mother of Nancy Shuttleworth Rust, known to her grandchildren as Beah). This picture of Aunt Fanny (how Beah knew her and Nancy too) may have been taken when she was Dean of Women at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the late teens of the twentieth century. As Dean of Women (she’d had the same position at Grinnell College in Iowa), Aunt Fanny accomplished many things, but the Dean-ship was a backwater of her true passion, which was physics, and, more specifically, radioactivity. As a scientist, Fanny worked with some of the biggest names in the field, including Ernest Rutherfield. Work she undertook in his lab around the turn of the century helped to establish the nature of radioactivity. She went on to do research at Goucher College (then a women’s college) for thirteen years, but when a fire destroyed her lab, she was forced to move on to a series of other appointments, none of which allowed her to pursue her work as she had at Goucher. She is remembered today as one of the first generation of American women scientists. She would certainly be amazed and proud to know how many women scientists her brother’s marriage would foster (including one we know who has just graduated from the University of Washington)! For a sketch of her life, see this site here, for a kind of professional resumé, see this site here, and for a lengthier biography, read this article here.

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One thought on “Aunt Fanny ~

  1. Pingback: Back up another limb: John Cook Gates and Adelia St. John | The Boomerang Blog

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