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This week, we’re bringing you an episode from another podcast hosted and produced by Katie Hafner, Our Mothers Ourselves. It’s a show that celebrates extraordinary mothers through conversations with their children. In this episode, Katie speaks with Yvonne Young Clark’s daughter, Carol Lawson. We hope you enjoy this episode of Our Mothers Ourselves, “The ‘Relentlessly Positive’ Yvonne Young Clark: An Interview with Y.Y.'s Daughter, Carol Lawson.”
YY taught at Tennessee State University, a historically Black university, for 55 years. In this episode, we hear from YY’s colleagues, students and family members about who she was as an educator and how she’s remembered. We’ll also explore where HBCUs stand today – particularly, why they graduate so many successful Black scientists compared to other institutions, and their place in the future of science. Plus, a reimagining of YY’s accomplishments: what did it mean to be the first? Access a transcript of the episode here:
What is mechanical engineering? What was YY actually doing? This episode is about the work itself – specifically, the work Yvonne Young Clark did at NASA on the Saturn V rocket, and in designing the “moon rock box” for transporting lunar samples back to Earth. And we take a deep dive into the history of the American space program, the mechanics of a rocket, and how YY brought her troubleshooter’s mind to a problem that was plaguing some of the country’s top scientists. Access a transcript of the episode here:
When YY started college at Howard University as a mechanical engineering student, there were three things she swore she’d never do: marry a tall man, become a teacher, and work for the government. But love and life had other plans, and YY soon discovered the difficulty of entering private industry as one of the few Black women in her field. After success at RCA-Victor and Frankford Arsenal, YY moved back to the South, where Brown v. Board of Education had recently integrated public schools, prompting a violent backlash. Access a transcript of the episode here:
With a librarian mother and a physician father, YY was brought up in a supportive, educated, and prosperous Black enclave of Louisville, Kentucky. Her parents nurtured her knack for engineering. She got her start as a young child when she repaired the family toaster. An early introduction to a Black pilot group inspired her to fly planes, and she applied to the University of Louisville, where she hoped to study engineering and eventually aeronautics—until she learned her race disqualified her. Access a transcript of the episode here:
Yvonne Y. Clark, known as YY throughout her career, has also been nicknamed “The First Lady of Engineering,” because of her groundbreaking achievements as a Black female mechanical engineer. Season 3 of Lost Women of Science traces her trajectory, from her unconventional childhood interest in fixing appliances to civil rights breakthroughs in the segregated South; from her trailblazing role at historically Black colleges and universities to her work at NASA. What can YY teach us about what it means to be the first in a scientific field, especially as a Black woman in America?
Carol Sutton Lewis, host of the podcast Ground Control Parenting, has long been interested in Black history. This season, she’s joining Lost Women of Science as a cohost to help tell the story of the mechanical engineer, Yvonne Young Clark. Known as Professor Clark to her students and YY to her engineering colleagues, YY’s career spanned academia and industry. She was a dedicated STEM educator and a champion of historically Black colleges and universities. Alongside cohost Katie Hafner, Carol will trace YY’s life and work through fascinating chapters of Black history, from the promises of Reconstruction to integration efforts at NASA.
BONUS: The Weather Myth

BONUS: The Weather Myth


We saw the story over and over again: computer programmer Klára Dán von Neumann was a pioneer in weather forecasting. But when we talked to Thomas Haigh, a historian who studies Klári’s work, he said he’s found absolutely no evidence of this. How did this weather myth start? We set out to answer that question, and in the process, we asked this: Why is it so tempting to credit the wrong person, even when that false credit is given with the best of intentions? Note: we’d like to acknowledge the operators of the ENIAC who ran the 1950 weather simulation, Homé McAllister and Clyde Hauff. Access a transcript of the episode here:
E5: La Jolla

E5: La Jolla


After Johnny’s death, Klári becomes the keeper of his legacy. It’s an exhausting, full-time commitment that takes her out of the computing world for good. She marries her fourth husband, a physicist, and moves to a Southern California beach town. She resolves to settle down, and starts writing a memoir. We discuss her legacy in computing and beyond, and the current state of gender and programming. Note: this episode includes content that could be upsetting. We’ll be talking about depression and self-harm. Access a transcript of the episode here.
E4: Netherworld

E4: Netherworld


After World War II, tensions build between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Scientists at Los Alamos continue developing nuclear weapons, helped by the recently-reconfigured ENIAC. Using a statistical method called Monte Carlo, they optimize nuclear weapons through computer simulations. In these simulations, physics is neither purely experimental nor theoretical–it’s both, creating what historian Peter Galison calls a “netherland…at once nowhere and everywhere.” And Klári finds herself immersed in this sort of netherworld, turning nuclear physics into code. Access a transcript of the episode here:
When John von Neumann runs into fellow mathematician Herman Goldstine at a train station, Goldstine clues him into a new powerful computer called the ENIAC that is being constructed to help with the war effort, and Johnny immediately grasps the machine’s enormous potential. Though the computer is not completed in time to be useful in the second world war, it finds new purpose in the war’s aftermath. Soon, Klári von Neumann is enlisted to instruct the machine what to do, and in doing so, becomes one of the first coders. This episode takes a deep dive into the workings of the ENIAC and the origins of computing in the 1940s. Access a transcript of the episode here:
E2: Women Needed

E2: Women Needed


With John von Neumann absorbed in work, Klári struggles to find a niche in her new suburban home while dealing with devastating losses. A new chapter opens for Klári when the U.S. finally enters the war and women are called into the workforce. Access a transcript of the episode here:
E1: The Grasshopper

E1: The Grasshopper


To understand how Klára Dán von Neumann arrived at computer programming, we need to first understand where she came from. Born in Budapest to a wealthy Jewish family, Klári grew up surrounded by artists, playwrights, and intellectuals. Her first marriage, to an inveterate gambler, took her on a tour of Europe’s casinos, and in one of them, she had a chance encounter with the famous mathematician, John von Neumann. Access a transcript of the episode here:
The first modern-style code executed on a computer was written in the 1940s by a woman named Klára Dán von Neumann–or Klári to her family and friends. And the historic program she wrote was used to optimize nuclear weapons. This season, we dive into this fascinating moment in postwar America through Klári’s work. We explore the evolution of early computers, the vital role women played in early programming, and the inescapable connection between computing and war.
BONUS: The Resignation

BONUS: The Resignation


In 1949, at the height of his career, Rustin McIntosh, the director of pediatrics at Columbia University’s Babies Hospital, submitted his letter of resignation. Dr. Scott Baird, who wrote a biography on Dorothy Andersen, takes us back to this pivotal moment, which occurred at the dawn of pediatric pathology in the United States. Through archival resources, Scott explores the institutional tensions that led to this abrupt resignation. At the eye of the storm is a character we’ve come to know well, perhaps the most important person working in pediatric pathology at the time: Dr. Dorothy Andersen. Access a transcript of the episode here:
In our final episode, we explore Dorothy Andersen’s legacy—what she left behind and how her work has lived on since her death. Describing her mentor’s influence on her life and career, Dr. Celia Ores gives us a rare look into what Dr. Andersen was really like. We then turn to researchers, doctors, and patients, who fill us in on the progress that has grown from Dr. Andersen’s initial work. These major developments include the discovery of the cystic fibrosis gene, the tremendous impact of the drug Trikafta, and the lifesaving potential of gene editing techniques. Access a transcript of the episode here:
A missing portrait of Dr. Andersen takes us on a journey into the perils of memorialization—and who gets to be remembered. Dr. Scott Baird hunts for the portrait, and Drs. Nientara Anderson and Lizzy Fitzsousa, former medical students at Yale, explain how, in today’s diverse communities, “dude walls” can have an insidious effect on those who walk past them every day. Access a transcript of the episode here:
E2: The Matilda Effect

E2: The Matilda Effect


A passionate outdoorswoman, a “rugged individualist,” and a bit of an enigma—the few traces Dr. Andersen left behind give us glimpses into who she was. In this episode, we track down people determined to stitch together her life. Our associate producer, Sophie McNulty, rummages through the basement of Dr. Andersen’s colleague for clues about the elusive pathologist. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, pediatric intensivist Scott Baird suggests we take a second look at the conventional wisdom surrounding the evolution of cystic fibrosis research in the 1950s. Access a transcript of the episode here:
E1: The Question Mark

E1: The Question Mark


When Dr. Dorothy Andersen confronted a slew of confounding infant deaths, she suspected the accepted diagnosis wasn’t right. Her medical sleuthing led to the world’s understanding of cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects the lungs, the pancreas, and a host of other organs. But hers is by no means a household name. Who was this scientist, and how did she come to quietly make such an important medical contribution? Access a transcript of the episode here:
There's a test that we at Lost Women of Science seem to fail again and again: the Finkbeiner Test. Named for the science writer, Ann Finkbeiner, the Finkbeiner Test is a checklist for writing profiles of female scientists without being sexist. It includes rules like not mentioning her husband’s job, or her childcare arrangements, or how she was the “first woman to…”—all rules we break regularly on this show. In this episode, Katie Hafner talks to Christie Aschwanden, the science writer who created the test, and Ann Finkbeiner, who inspired it, to find out how they came up with these rules, and to see if there might be hope yet for our series. She reports her findings to Carol Sutton Lewis, who has a whole other set of rules for telling these stories.
Comments (4)

Fatemeh Dehqan

that was excellent 👌🏼😍

Sep 27th

Sara Shahriari

this podcast is amazing 👏 😍 keep going 💪🏻

Jun 23rd
Reply (1)


m.h xxxx

Jun 9th
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