My advisor from Caltech, Frances Arnold, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame last night at the USPTO. When she first posted about the honor on Facebook a few months ago, I promptly said that I would go because the ceremony was in the lobby of my office building. I thought it was going to be an afternoon ceremony with cookies. I haven’t been to the physical office in over eight months. I could go in, go to the ceremony and pick up a ream of paper and a few boxes of toner. Then three weeks ago, I found out that it was going to be a black tie affair. Yipes. Engineers and black tie events are not really suppose to overlap.
Jeremy rented a tux from Men’s Wearhouse. I rented a dress from Rent the Runway. It was a lot of fun – we rode the Metro, showed off a little at Jeremy’s office (where we told everyone we were going to prom) and posed for pictures in Farragut Square.
We look pretty good, huh?
I enjoyed the ceremony more than I thought I would. I met a number of Frances’s family and friends and they were an interesting bunch. It turns out that France’s older brother was working at AMD when Jeremy joined in 1997 and was Jeremy’s boss’s boss for a few months.
I sat next to Edith Flanigen – she invented the field of zeolites at Union Carbide. She started working there in 1950s. Doesn’t the name Union Carbide just conjure up a company full of white, male scientists? I asked her if it was hard being a woman chemist at Union Carbide in the 50s and she simply said, no that she didn’t think it was that hard. She said that once she was asked to make coffee and she just looked at the man and said, “I don’t do that.” and that was it. Go, Edith.
Next to Edith at our table was Helen Free. She invented this little thing called glucose test strips. She also had six children.
At the end of the evening, they introduced all the past inductees. They included the people who invented the MRI, Post-It notes and implantable defibrillator. I know it’s a little dorky, but it was like being at the nerd prom, the Oscars of engineering. I was swooning a little bit. Who knew all these people could be in one room at the same time! With me!
Finally, a tricky trick – some of these photos are taken with the fancy camera, some are taken with a phone. Can you tell which one is which?