The talks I gave about Dora went well and you can watch the presentation I gave at the British Society for the History of Mathematics conference below. It’s a short one – only 17 minutes – but it developed into an interesting Q&A with the participants. Most of them shared my frustration with the lack of documentary evidence and the consequent holes in Dora’s story. One of my fellow presenters, talking about women mathematicians in the astronomy department at Cambridge University, had had to find reference to her women of interest by reading the ‘acknowledgements’ section of academic papers from the period. The complex mathematics that the women had contributed to various projects was regarded in the same way as the typists who wrote up the papers. It must have been a long, tedious trawl through the archives to find these snippets and the glimpse they gave into the women’s work and status.
I am currently doing a short course on ‘editing and pitching your novel’ with Curtis Brown Creative, part of a major literary agency. I have been going through my novel scene by scene, making notes of what happens, how it moves the story forward and where corrections are needed to deal with both structural issues and more minor tweaks. I want the book to be the best it can be, however it ends up being published. The next part of the course will help me refine and improve my submission package, but I have to accept that it is still a long shot. Everyone seems to have written a novel during the pandemic and publishers have no gaps in their schedules till 2023, I’m told. We shall see.
Via this website I was contacted by Dora’s godson, now a retired cardiologist. It was thrilling to speak to someone so close to her and he was able to tell me more about her life at Morar and in London. His 21st birthday party had been held at the Metcalfs’ apartment in Kensington. I hadn’t realised that they used to drive up to Morar and bought property in Otley (where they lived for their final years) as a way station. I’d assumed they had travelled by train to the Highlands. Like everyone else, though, he knew nothing of her wartime activities so I’m still none the wiser there!