Today’s Google Doodle honors Heinrich Hertz, born February 22, 1857, the physicist best known for his work establishing the existence of electromagnetic waves. As a former radio astronomer, Hertz’s work and name has long been a part of my life, and in physics we have named the unit hertz (Hz) after him. This unit describes the frequency of electromagnetic waves, which also determines the energy such waves carry. Our understanding of electromagnetic waves led the pathway to many of the modern technologies we all count on today, including the radio in your car, the microwave in your kitchen, the cell phone in your hand, and the cable TV in your living room. So, Heinrich Hertz is certainly a worthy honoree for the Google Doodle today, but as we know around here, he’s certainly far from the only worthy honoree.
Here on the Speaking Up blog, I’ll be highlighting another individual born on February 22nd (but in the year 1892): Edna St. Vincent Millay. Millay was a poet and playwright who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923 and the Frost Medal for a lifetime contribution to American poetry in 1943 (only the second woman to receive that honor).
Many of her works can be found on the website for the amazing Project Gutenberg, which catalogs and provides free e-books, primarily from older works that are no longer under copyright in the United States, and reaches a new generation of students with literary classics. Here, I’ll reproduce one of her works, which I selected because I found it to exemplify the work done by those women we honor here at Speaking Up and those people honored by the Google Doodles project. These creators and innovators are often the people who see and approach the world differently from the rest of us, and in doing so, cast a light that changes the way we see the world:
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends —
It gives a lovely light!
(“First Fig” from A Few Figs from Thistles by Edna St. Vincent Millay, originally published 1920, retrieved from Project Gutenberg, February 22nd 2012)