Physicist of the Month: Prof. Sally Ride

Birth: 26 May 1951
Death: 23 July 2012

Links to a few of their papers:
The EarthKAM project
The Urey Instrument

Sally became famous as the First American woman (and third ever woman) in space in 1983. At 32, she was the youngest American astronaut to travel to space, a record that still stands today. [1]

Alongside an interest in science Sally was also a keen tennis player from a young age, a hobby through which she met her later partner Tam O’Shaughnessy.

She attended Swarthmore College and the University of California, before entering Stanford University where she graduated with a bachelor’s in Physics and English and later an MSc and PhD. Her PhD research focused on the interaction of X-rays with the interstellar medium.

Before her first space flight, she received a lot of attention from the media on account of her gender. During one press conference she was asked “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?” and “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?” [2]

After her career as an astronaut, she went on to become a professor of physics at the University of California. She also led two outreach projects for NASA, cofounded her company Sally Ride Science (which creates science programmes and publications for school aged children, particularly girls) [3] and wrote multiple children’s books about space [4]. It was not until after her death that she became known as the first lesbian astronaut, when her sister mentioned in her obituary that she had been in a relationship with Tam [5].

By Rose Waugh

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