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Killed in the Service of Her Country

One of my friends, Rhea Seddon, was one of the original six women astronauts selected in 1978 for the space program. She and the other five women were pioneers. One of those five women, Judy Resnik, lost her life on one of the Challenger missions.

I’m writing for a mobile travel app called Guidrr. The Guides I create specialize on historical events and people. One of the new Guides is “Amazing Women of Historic Nashville.” As I began my research, I found someone from Nashville who was another pioneer and like Rhea, she was an aviator. And like Judy, Cornelia was killed in the line of duty.

Debutante to Wartime Pilot

Cornelia Fort (with a PT-19A). Photo by Unknown (c. 1942). PD-USGOV. Wikimedia Commons.
Cornelia Fort (with a PT-19A). Photo by Unknown (c. 1942). PD-USGOV. Wikimedia Commons.

Cornelia Fort (1919–1943) was the daughter of Rufus Fort, the founder of National Life and Accident Insurance Company. She grew up in a privileged Nashville home with a future of cotillions, marriage to a prominent Nashville man, and the quiet country club life.

Cornelia didn’t want to become a debutante—she wanted to fly. She became the first female pilot instructor in Nashville. By 1941, Cornelia had signed up as a flight instructor with the Civilian Pilots Training Program. Shortly after that, she was sent to Honolulu and hired to teach flying to defense workers, soldiers, and sailors based at Pearl Harbor. Read More Killed in the Service of Her Country

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The Tragic Death of Madame Curie

Julius Mendes Price [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons
Julius Mendes Price [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons from Wikimedia Commons
If you studied science and in particular, radiology, then you know the story of Marie Curie (1867–1934) and her husband, Pierre (1859–1906). Madame Curie was the first woman to ever win a Nobel Prize and the only woman to win two Nobel prizes in separate categories: physics (1903) and chemistry (1911). At this moment, she is the only woman buried in the Pantheon based on her own merits (several other women have recently been voted in but their remains have not been transferred).

Family Affair

The Curie family was quite well known for their work in radiology and radium. Their daughter, Irene (1897–1956), would go on to win the 1935 Nobel Prize in chemistry. The other children were esteemed scientists in their own ways.

Pierre was an instructor at the School of Physics and Chemistry and would go on to hold the physics chair at the University of Paris created specifically for him. Despite this position, the Curies had to use a make shift laboratory located in a converted shed.

Jointly, the Curies are responsible for discovering two elements: polonium (named for her homeland of Poland) and radium. In time, they would create the word radioactivity. One of their 32 scientific papers dealt with radium and how when exposed to it, diseased and tumor-forming cells would die off quicker than healthy cells. Read More The Tragic Death of Madame Curie