Saturday, 28 July 2012

Dr Sally Ride 1951-2012

It was with great sadness that I heard the reports of the death of Sally Ride. I wasn’t even aware that she had been ill. For someone in the public eye Sally Ride was an immensely private person but had been fighting pancreatic cancer for the past 17 months. On July 23rd she lost her fight and passed away peacefully.

Sally compiled her own obituary (which you can read in full here) with her life partner Tamara O’Shaughnessy , such a brave thing to do, as I guess she wanted the world to know something which although known to friends and family wasn’t generally public knowledge.

In 1983 Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space aboard the Challenger Space Shuttle, something she also did in 1984. She was preparing for another mission when in 1986 Challenger exploded on lift off and the program was suspended. Sally retired from NASA in 1987 and continued her life as an educator, setting up Sally Ride Science in 2001. Her great passion was to get kids, particularly women interested in Science and Maths.
 As Sally would point out, if you Googled “scientist” you were most likely to get a picture of a mad scientist than a normal young woman or man.  She wanted to make it more “normal” to master chemistry, physics, biology, and calculus – the survival skills for tomorrow.
In her opinion the 1960’s Russian satellite Sputnik inspired the public to focus on science and engineering.  “It was cool then to be a scientist or engineer, and we need to make it cool again.”  .
In a tribute to her President Barack Obama said -
"As the first American woman to travel into space, Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools. Sally's life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come."
As an admirer of what Sally Ride achieved, a scientist and  a woman I sincerely hope so…


  1. May she remain an inspiration to women and girls around the world

  2. Very sad news, and you are right to post this to remind us all what an inspiration such women can be for the girls we have taught, and some, like you, continue to teach. Thanks Gaynor. J x