Women’s History Month
March 1, 2021
In celebration of Women's History Month, Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative is encouraging everyone to share about the inspirational and innovative women in our world. This year's them: Women Making Change.
The Cosmosphere will be highlighting some amazing women in the STEM fields. Share with us some of the women you think have changed the world for the better.
Frances "Poppy" Northcutt
Frances "Poppy" Northcutt, graduated from University of Texas at Austin with a degree in mathematics and started as a contractor for TRW Systems (now a part of Northrop Grumman) working for NASA in 1965 as a human “computress.” “What a weird title this is,” she recalled thinking then, in an interview with TIME magazine in 2019 “Not only do they think I’m a computer, but they think I’m a gendered computer.” She was promoted a year later to a Return-to-Earth Specialist, calculating mission trajectories. Making her the first woman in a technical position at Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX.
Poppy was the only woman working in NASA's Mission Control during the Apollo 8 mission. (Her work involved Trans-Earth Injection.) One thing she knew from a young age was that she did not want to be in a stereotypical female role, like a nurse, teacher, or secretary. She went into a mathematics field because it was male-dominated. For her, that signaled better pay and more opportunities.
She went on to be involved with Apollo 10, 11, 12, and 13—where Northcutt's team troubleshot the Apollo 13 oxygen tank explosion emergency. After continued work on advanced mission problems, she held a position in the Houston mayoral office as a women’s advocate. Following that, her career focus shifted to the law, where she worked as an engineer while obtaining her law degree.
Serving as the first prosecutor in the domestic violence unit of the district attorney’s office in her county and moving into private practice, she had a career focused on women’s rights. She was an advocate for the Texas Equal Rights Amendment, passed in 1972.
How did her work in space missions help her law career? According to an interview with Space.com, she was accustomed to"evaluating the reasonableness of technical evidence." A continuing advocate, she describes herself on social media as: “One time rocket scientist, sometime lawyer, full time feminist.”
Mary Jackson (1921-2005)
Mary Jackson was a mathematician and aerospace engineer at NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (Her story was featured in the 2016 movie "Hidden Figures.") She worked in the West Area Computing group under Dorothy Vaughan. She moved to a job working with engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki on experiments in the Supersonic Pressure Tunnel. She became NASA's first black female engineer in 1958!
She received the Apollo Group Achievement Award, along with other honors, and she was known for being very active in community service. June 2020, the NASA headquarters in Washington D.C. was named the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building
Dorothy Johnson Vaughan: (1910-2008)
Dorothy Johnson Vaughan was a mathematician and human computer who worked for NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration at NASA Langley Research Center. She worked on the mathematics of the SCOUT Launch Vehicle Program which focused on satellite launches.
She learned FORTRAN coding language to become an expert working with electronic computers when NASA began using them. She was one of the title characters whose story the 2016 movie "Hidden Figures" was based upon.
Katherine Johnson (1918-2020)
The 2016 movie "Hidden Figures" was focused around the story of Katherine Johnson. Her work in mathematics at NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration were critical to the first U.S. manned spaceflights.
Johnson worked at NASA Langley Research Center under fellow mathematician, Dorothy Vaughan, in the West Area Computer group. She is best known for her work on John Glenn's Friendship 7 launch – in fact, Glenn asked for her to double check the electronic computers figures for the launch!
She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. February 2021, Northrop Grumman named its Cygnus NG-15 spacecraft to supply the International Space Station the SS Katherine Johnson in her honor.
Emmy Noether: (1882-1935)
Noether is known for the Noether's Theorem, an important theorem in theoretical physics. She was a German mathematician and studied mathematics at the University of Erlangen where she was only allowed to audit courses. However, when the University changed to allow women to attend in 1904, she went back to get a Ph.D!
She faced issues lecturing as a woman and had to start out working under a male colleague's name when at Gottingen. During the Nazi rise to power in Germany, the Jewish professor immigrated to the United States to research at the Institute for Advanced Study and teach at Bryn Mawr.
Ada Lovelace: (1815-1852)
Ada Lovelace, the daughter of poet Lord Byron, had an unusual education for her time, as her father insisted she have private tutoring in mathematics. Ada is known as the first computer programmer and for working on the proposed Analytical Engine with Charles Babbage, "Father of the Computer," who is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer. Ada has her own holiday: Ada Lovelace Day on the second Tuesday in October!
Margaret Hamilton: (1936-Present)
Software Engineer Margaret Hamilton is pictured here next to a physical copy of the Apollo navigation software. Hamilton led the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team that wrote the software for the Apollo Guidance Computer, the brains behind the Command Module (CM) and Lunar Module (LM).
Hamilton and her team from MIT started from square one for the critical pieces of the software needed to land astronauts on the Moon. At the time they were writing the software for the Apollo program, computer science and software engineering weren’t established fields.
A 1976 historical monograph from the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory notes that the code for the Apollo Guidance Computer “had to be as near error-free as possible and any anomalies had to be understood and recorded for possible affect (sic) on the mission. Actually, no program errors were ever uncovered during the [Apollo] missions.”
This error-free code worked flawlessly for every Apollo mission. During Apollo 11, the LM's computer was overwhelmed with data, but still performed how it was supposed to. A switch had inadvertently been put into the wrong position, which led to the 1201 and 1202 alarms that Neil and Buzz saw during their descent to the lunar surface. The computer couldn't keep up, so it prioritized higher importance calculations.
The team that Hamilton led helped land men on the Moon before the end of the 1960s, fulfilling Kennedy's challenge and cementing her place in computing history. In 2016 President Obama awarded Margaret Hamilton the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our Nation’s highest civilian honor.
Florence Nightingale: (1820-1910)
Of course you know the name Florence Nightingale. She is known worldwide for her contributions to the field nursing and social reforms. But did you know she also famous for being a statistician? That's right. The famous "Lady with the Lamp" created a version of the pie chart called the polar area diagram (now the histogram). She used statistics to illustrate data on patient mortality in the military field.
Dr. Mae Jemison
Dr. Mae Jemison received her bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Stanford as well as a doctorate in medicine from Cornell. With a focus in both medical research and engineering, her work ranged from computer programming to research on the Hepatitis B vaccine to General Practice to Area Peace Corp Medical Medical Officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa.
She was accepted to the Astronaut program in 1987. Dr. Jemison flew on the STS-47 Skylab-J Mission and worked as co-investigator of a bone cell experiment onboard. She was the first African American woman in space.
After her time with NASA she founded the Jemison Group, a technology consulting firm with a focus on socio-cultural issues. Through her foundation, The Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, she focuses on education programs like The Earth We Share, an international science camp initiative. She has authored several books, and she’s the first astronaut to have an appearance on Star Trek!
“Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” – Dr. Mae Jemison
Alice Augusta Ball (1892-1916)
Alice Augusta Ball (1892-1916) was an African-American chemist. She received degrees in Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Washington. She attended the College of Hawaii and became the first woman and first African-American woman there to receive a Master's in Chemistry.
It seems like a far away problem now–but during this time, leprosy was a real problem. Alice's thesis for her Master's was on the chemistry of a root, and she was sought out by a surgeon, Harry Hollman, to look at the makeup of another plant: chaulmoogra, which was being used as a medication in the treatment of leprosy. She quickly discovered a new method of processing that created a water-soluble solution of the active compounds in the plant. It was a huge step in treatment of the disease.
Unfortunately, she passed away at the age of 24, and this research was undertaken by the college president of the College of Hawaii – he did not credit her for the discovery. It was the surgeon who requested her help originally who noted her name and called the new injection the "Ball Method". Her accomplishments were largely disregarded for more than 80 years. She was recognized by the university in 2000, and the Governor of Hawaii made February 29th Alice Ball Day. In 2019 the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine added her name atop its main building, along with Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie, in recognition of their contributions to science and global health research.
Sally Ride (1951-2012)
Sally Ride was an astronaut, physicist, and engineer. When Sally applied to the astronaut program there were 8,000 applicants. Thirty-five were chosen. Six were women. And in 1983, she became the first American woman in space–the third woman after cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya.
She was also a professor of physics and is known for sitting on committees that studied the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters. She received many honors including the Von Braun Award, induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame, and the NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Space Flight Medal–Twice!
Maryam Mirzakhani (1977-2017)
Maryam Mirzakhani was an Iranian mathematician with a focus in theoretical mathematics. Born in Tehran, she went on to earn a doctorate from Harvard. She didn't let the language barrier hold her back. She spoke English and took notes in Farsi. She also taught at Stanford University.
She was the first woman to win the Fields Medal, an elite award in mathematics.
Even back in high school she gained international attention by competing in Iran's International Mathematical Olympiad team. She was the only girl to have done so-- and she earned two gold medals!
She died at the age of 40 after a battle with cancer, but her legacy will go on. “Maryam is gone far too soon, but her impact will live on for the thousands of women she inspired to pursue math and science,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne in Stanford's newspaper.
Pearl Young (1895-1968)
Pearl Young was the first woman physicist hired by the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA). Starting from the Instrument Research Division, she worked her way up to the Chief Technical Editor of NASA. She held that position for almost 20 years and was integral to revolutionizing the creation and disbursement of technical manuals and papers. According to NASA, in her vital role, she made sure that reports were “checked and rechecked for consistency, logical analysis, and absolute accuracy.”
Dr. Kathryn Sullivan
Dr. Kathryn Sullivan graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in Earth science and obtained a doctorate in geology from Dalhousie University. She was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1978 and is a veteran of three space flights including STS-41G in 1984 on which she became the first U.S. woman to perform an EVA (Extravehicular Activity).
She held a number of positions in the Shuttle program and in 1993 left NASA to pursue a Presidential appointment as Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Her career included President and CEO of COSI, Director of the Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy in the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, among others. She had a significant role in NOAA work in the realm of weather, water, and climate science and the collection of environmental intelligence.
With a wide ranging career, Dr. Sullivan was a 2004 inductee to the Astronaut Hall of Fame, among many other awards including positions on the National Science Board, National Commission on Space, and the Pew Oceans Commission as well as holding the position of Chair of the Ohio Aerospace and Defense Advisory Council, Adjunct Professor of Geology at Ohio State University, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Astronautics and Aeronautics.
Marie Curie (1867-1934)
Marie was a Polish-French physicist and chemist.
She is known world-wide for her research on radioactivity. Her work earned her a Nobel Prize-- She was the first woman to win one! Then she was the first woman to win twice! She won for both Physics and Chemistry.
She worked with her husband, Pierre Curie, to discover polonium and radium. She also developed mobile x-rays for use during World War 1-- At the time she was joined in using the device on the front lines by her 17 year old daughter, Irene. (Irene also went on to share a Nobel Prize in Chemistry and work on the topic of radioactivity. Her other daughter, Eve, became a journalist, wrote Marie's biography, and worked extensively for UNICEF!)
Stephanie Castillo founded "Latina Girls Code" in 2014. It targets Latinas between 7 and 17, with a focus on tech languages and hands-on education to disadvantaged children. The program runs workshops as long as 12 weeks teaching girls programming and entrepreneurship skills.
Stephanie also worked as an immigration adviser for the girls in her programs, helping to file permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This interest moved her into the fields of criminal law, juvenile justice, disability rights, and international human right. She has conducted research in a variety of countries, lectures on topics, and has worked in collaboration with United Nations Representatives. She was accepted to Northwestern Law with an interest in artificial intelligence policy and legal issues.
Dr. Tahani Amer
Dr. Tahani Amer grew up in Cairo, Egypt. She immigrated to the United States at the age of 17 when she married. She had an interest in math, and when she took her first calculus course in the United States, she did not speak any English–and she still got an A. Her goal was to be engineer. Amer attributes her interest to watching her father working on his car's engine as a child.
Amer received an associate's degree while taking care of her two children. She re-entered school to receive her Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering and then went onto receive a Master's in Aerospace Engineering and a Doctoral in Engineering.
Currently Dr. Amer works as a Program Executive at NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration. She created and patented a way to measure the thermal conductivity of a thin film, an innovative addition to thermal modeling.
Annie Easley (1933-2011)
Annie Easley discovered her career through an article on the “human computers” at the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) Aircraft Engine Research Lab (which would later become the NASA Glenn Research Center) in 1955. Within weeks, she was working as a “human computer” calculating and performing complex simulations. One of the first African-American employees, she faced discrimination—according one interview, she said, “My head is not in the sand. But my thing is, if I can’t work with you, I will work around you. I was not about to be [so] discouraged that I’d walk away. That may be a solution for some people, but it’s not mine.”
As technology changed, she adapted to computer programming and code development and implementation that was used for hybrid vehicles and the Centaur upper-stage rocket, those advances led to laying the technological foundation for future satellites and space vehicles – which included the launch of Cassini to Saturn in 1997.
Easley returned to school to pursue a mathematics degree from Cleveland State –while also working full time. She actively encouraged female and minority students in the STEM fields as a speaker, and in her later career, worked as an Equal Employment Opportunity counselor.
Easley retired in 1989 after 34 years with NASA.
Kitty O’Brien Joyner (1916-1993)
A determined Kitty O’Brien Joyner was the first woman graduate of the University of Virginia engineering program in 1937–after having sued the university so she could enter the all-male engineering school. In 1939 Joyner was the first female engineer at Langley Research Center–the research center was established by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which later became NASA in 1958. With a focus of electrical engineering, her work included wind tunnel control and research in supersonic flight, and she rose to the level of branch management during her career at NASA.
Joyner was a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, along with the Engineers Club, Virginia.
She retired from NASA in 1971.
Sabrina González Pasterski (1993-Present)
Sabrina González Pasterski (1993-Present) has been hailed the "Next Einstein." She is a theoretical physicist who studies high energy physics. She describes herself as, "a proud first-generation Cuban-American & Chicago Public Schools alumna."
By the age of 13 she had built–and flown in–her own airplane! She garnered a number of achievements and awards in her teenage years including an internship with NASA and the Lindau Nobel Young Researcher title. She graduated first in her class from MIT-Physics.
Peggy Whitson (1960-Present)
Shout-out to the Midwest! Peggy is from Iowa, and she has a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry. She received her Doctorate in Biochemistry in 1985. She served in a variety of scientific positions at NASA, and she entered the astronaut training program with NASA in 1996.
Whitson accumulated 665 days in space – she currently holds the U.S. record for number of days in space! She has also performed the most spacewalks of any woman. Her awards and recognition range from the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame, to the NASA Silver Snoopy, to the Russian medal of Merit for Space.
She also worked as the Chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA. She was the first woman to serve in the position. She retired from NASA in 2018.
Ellen Ochoa (1958-Present)
Dr. Ellen Ochoa (1958-Present) obtained her Bachelor's in Physics, a Master's and a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering.
Ochoa joined NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1988 as a research engineer for the Ames Research Center. She became an astronaut in 1990 and became the first Hispanic woman to go to space in 1993 aboard the space shuttle Discovery. She's had over 1,000 hours in space!
She was awarded NASA's Distinguished Service Medal (2015) and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award among others. She was also the first Hispanic director of NASA's Johnson Space Center – the second female director. In 2018 she was inducted into the 2018 International Air and Space Hall of Fame class. Ochoa is a member of the National Science Board’s class of 2016 – 2022.
Valentina Tereshkova (1937-Present)
Valentina is the first woman to have flown in space! Her logic? "If women can be railroad workers in Russia, why can't they fly in space?"
Unlike most Astronaut and Cosmonaut trainees, Valentina had no pilot experience. Instead, she had parachute experience- 126 jumps! Unlike the water landings that Astronaut's capsules utilized, Cosmonauts parachuted from their capsules before they had a ground landing.
Her launch was in Voskhod 6. The mission was a two person mission. Voskhod 5 launched with Cosmonaut Valeriy Bykovsky. The two capsules came within 3 miles of each other and communicated with each other.
She received a number of awards include the Order of Lenin, the Gold Star Medal, and the United Nations Gold Medal of Peace. She married Cosmonaut Adriyan Nikolayev and had a daughter, Elena-- the first child born to parents who had been to space! She was also involved in politics, holding multiple positions including being a member of the Supreme Soviet Presidium and deputy chair of Yaroslavl province.
Kalpana Chawla (1962-2003)
Kalpana Chawla was born in Karnal, India on March 17. She was the first Indian-born woman in space. She immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s after receiving her aeronautical engineering degree from Punjab Engineering College in India.
She attended the University of Texas to gain a masters and the University of Colorado to obtain a doctorate in aerospace engineering. In 1988, she started work with Ames Research Center withNASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administrationn in power-lift computational fluid dynamics. She received her astronaut candidacy in 1994, followed by a year of training. Her first flight was in 1997 on STS-87. She held a number of roles including mission specialist, prime robotic arm operator, crew representative for shuttle and station flight crew equipment, and lead for Astronaut Office’s Crew Systems and Habitability section. She logged over 30 days in space.
In 2003, she flew on the Columbia shuttle again on mission STS-107–—the ill-fated mission that tragically ended in the loss of the crew upon re-entry on February 1, 2003. Her dreams of space live on in the young lives she inspired, and her contribution to research on theInternational Space Stationn helped to understand more about life in space.
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
Rosalind was an English chemist. She is known for her work with x-ray crystallography. She is remembered for her x-ray diffraction images of DNA. Her image, Photo 51, is the image that led to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. While her work on DNA was only acknowledged posthumously, it was monumental to our understanding of DNA. Her other notable work included study of coal, viruses, and graphite.
She received a number of awards and recognition after her death. (On a space related note, the European Space Agency named their ExoMars rover Rosalind Franklin. It was scheduled for launch in 2020, but has been postponed until 2022.)
Mary Cartwright (1900-1998)
Mary Cartwright (1900-1998) was a British mathematician. She was the first woman mathematician to be elected to the Royal Society. She was also the Mistress of the Girton College, Cambridge University.
Cartwright is known for her contributions that led to our modern understanding of chaos theory. She also worked on differential equations to solve radar issues during World War II and was a volunteer in the Red Cross and lectured at several universities including Stanford and Princeton. In 1969, she received the distinction of being honored by the Queen of England, becoming Dame Mary Cartwright, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Hypatia: (born c. 355 CE—died 415)
Women have been influential in STEM fields for a long time! Hypatia, daughter of Theon of Alexandria, was a mathematician, astronomer, and a philosopher. She was the leading female mathematician and astronomer of her time, known for commentaries on works including Apollonius of Perga's Conics, a geometrical text. She lived the life of an academic at the university in Alexandria. (The first woman to do so, as far as we know!) (Photo, bust of Hypatia at Lowell Observatory, Gerard van Belle.)
Julia Robinson (1919-1985)
Julia was an American mathematician. She is known for her work in computational complexity theory and computational theory.
She is renowned for solving Hilbert's tenth problem, for which she gained a nomination to the National Academy of Sciences. She was the first female to join in 1975.
Sophie Germain: (1776-1831)
A French mathematician, Sophie contributed to a variety of fields including acoustics, elasticity, and the theory of numbers. An anecdote about her childhood: She lived a time when academic pursuits were not considered safe for a woman. Sophie would read and study during the night. Her parents put out the fire in her room, hid her clothes, took her candles. And Sophie? She smuggled candles, bundled in blankets, and taught herself differential calculus! (Eventually they realized she was very serious about education.)
Marjorie Lee Browne (1914-1979)
Marjorie was one of the first African American women to receive a Ph.D – The third, actually. She was an educator and mathematician.
As a faculty member of North Carolina College, she pioneered the setup of an electronic digital computer center with a grant from IBM. It was the first one in a minority college.
Dr. Christine Darden (1942-Present)
Dr. Christine Darden (1942-Present) had a forty year career with NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the field of aerodynamics. Beginning in 1967, she started out as a "human computer" at NASA, but she wanted to create the data, not process it. After eight years, she was transferred to the engineering section at NASA Langley, where she was one of the few female aerospace engineers at that time. Considered an expert in supersonic flight and sonic booms, she worked in mathematics, data analytics, and aeronautical engineering. She received her doctorate in mechanical engineering. Darden retired from NASA as director of the Office of Strategic Communication and Education in March 2007.
Among many honors, she received the Certificate for Outstanding Performance from NASA – 10 times! She was also named Black Engineer of the Year by US Black Engineer & IT magazine and in 2019 Darden was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997)
Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) was a Chinese American physicist. She received her Ph.D. in 1940 from the University of California, Berkeley and is known for her part in creating the process of breaking uranium, through gaseous diffusion, into U-235 and U-238 isotopes during the Manhattan Project.
Despite her contributions, she did not receive acknowledgement for some of her work--a theoretical physics experiment she designed resulted in two other physicists receiving a Nobel Prize for Physics.
Later in life, she was awarded the National Medal of Science, an honorary Doctorate from Princeton, Wolf Prize in Physics, among others. She was the first woman to be president of the American Physical Society. Her writings are still a top reference for nuclear physicists today.
Eileen Collins was born in Elmira, New York in 1956. When she was young, she found her inspiration in the Mercury astronauts – but noticed during that time, there wasn't any women astronauts to look up to. She received an associate’s in mathematics/science from Corning Community College and went on to achieve a bachelor’s in mathematics and economics from Syracuse University. After that she got her master’s in operations research at Stanford AND a master’s in space systems management from Webster University.
She attended Vance Air Force Base where she was one of four women chosen for the Undergraduate Pilot Training. There she earned her pilot wings and became a T-38 Talon instructor pilot and eventually a C-141 Starlifter pilot. She attended the U.S. Air Force Academy from 1986-1989, where she became the second female pilot to attend the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. After being selected as an astronaut in 1990, she became the first female commander of a space shuttle on STS-93 in 1999, which deployed the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. She also piloted the historic “Return to Flight" mission, STS-114, to the International Space Station (ISS), following the space shuttle Columbia disaster. During this mission she became the first astronaut to complete the 360-degree pitch maneuver. This maneuver allowed astronauts on the ISS take photographs of the shuttle's underbelly to safeguard that there was no threat of debris damage to the shuttle during reentry into the Earth's atmosphere.
Her advice for young people, in a news article from NASA: ”‘go into the field you are most interested in. If you love your job, you'll do well in your job.’ While coming from a mathematics, science, or technology background is a must, there's a lot of variety in what exactly you can pursue. In fact, Collins discourages people from looking at what other astronauts are in and choosing that. The exact opposite worked for her-when she joined the corps, there were no astronauts in her field, operations research. ‘I said I think I can fill a void, and I think they bought it.’”
Patty Carey: (1921-2003)
To round out the end of Women's History Month...of course we have to mention the Cosmosphere's founder, Patty Carey!
Have you ever wondered why Hutchinson, Kansas, is the home of the Cosmosphere? It's because of our wonderful founder, Patty Carey. Her desire to share the wonders of astronomy became the foundation for the Cosmosphere's internationally recognized space artifact collection.
Fueled by her life-long interest in science, Patty established the first planetarium in the state of Kansas in 1962, called "Hutchinson's Theatre of the Skies" and later changed to "The Hutchinson Planetarium," this 25 feet in diameter planetarium was tucked into a corner of the poultry building on the fairgrounds of the Kansas State Fair. In 1966 the planetarium moved to the campus of Hutchinson Community College and grew to be known as the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center. It was a humble beginning that has blossomed into an internationally recognized, Smithsonian-affiliated institution – now called the Cosmosphere International SciEd Center and Space Museum.