In 1778, the physicist Laura Bassi died in Bologna. A ground-breaking academic, she paved the way for women in STEM.
On 20th February, 1778, Laura Bassi died in Bologna following a remarkable career in the sciences. She was the first woman to earn a university Chair in Science anywhere in the world.
When just 13, Bassi’s family physician recognised her potential and took charge of her education. At the age of 20, the physician invited philosophers from the University of Bologna along with the Archbishop of Bologna, who later became Pope Benedict XIV, to examine her progress.
They were so impressed, they admitted Bassi to the Bologna Academy of Sciences as an honorary member. She was the first female ever to be allowed to join.
Influenced by Isaac Newton
Her theses showed influences of Isaac Newton’s work on optics and light. When she received her degree there was a public celebration in Bologna.
Another thesis on the property of water led to her being awarded the post of Professor of Physics at the university. As a woman, Laura Bassi was not allowed to teach at the university. Instead, she gave lessons and held experiments in her own home.
She was appointed to the Chair of experimental physics at Bologna University in 1776.
A street in Bologna and a crater on Venus are named after her.