Google chose an interesting person to pay tribute to this week as part of its ever-changing Doodle feature, honoring Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann as one of the many women who have made a seismic – no pun intended – impact in their field.
Lehmann is one of several famous women who have been paid tribute to on Google Doodle, with the search giant having honored mathematician Emmy Noether in March. Her name isn’t that well-known outside of her field, but no less than Albert Einstein paid tribute to her upon her death in 1935, calling her the “most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.” And like Noether, Lehmann was born in 1880s Europe and studied in a time when women were virtually excluded from the field of science.
It was in 1920 when Lehmann received her master’s degree in Mathematics, and by the mid-1920s, she was working in the Danish Geodetic Institute, traveling to different European countries and Greenland as she conducted studies. Lehmann was named head of the institute’s seismology department in 1929, discovering in 1936 that planet Earth has a small inner core and an outer liquid core.
What made Lehmann’s accomplishments even more impressive was the fact that she wasn’t just a top female seismologist in her field, but the only seismologist, male or female, in Denmark. She would go on to found the Danish Geophysical Society in the early ‘40s, be named president of the European Seismological Commission, and become the first woman recipient of the Medal of the Seismological Society of America. By that time, in 1977, she was 89 years old.
The Lehmann Medal, given out every year by the American Geophysical Union since 1997, further pays tribute to this great woman, who would live to the age of 104, leaving behind a distinguished legacy in the field of seismology.