30 May 2017

The First Lady


Inge Lehmann never received the same recognition at home in Denmark that she did abroad. Now, the woman who discovered that the Earth has a solid core has become the first woman has been given the place she deserves alongside the University of Copenhagen’s most towering figures.

Inge Lehmann, the Danish geophysicist who, in a 1936 article titled simply “P”, argued that the Earth’s core was solid, and not, as previously believed, molten. For that discovery, Lehmann, who died in 1993, is being honoured with a monument, fashioned by Danish sculptor Elisabeth Toubro, on Frue Plads, in front of the main building.

Outside Denmark, Inge Lehmann’s research made her famous, and she was the recipient of some of her field’s highest awards, including the American Geophysical Union’s Bowie Medal. In Denmark she remains mostly unknown, a fact that Lykke Friis, UCPH's Prorector, in her address, suggested was all too common when it came to women in science.

“Look to the left,” she said pointing to the frieze depicting Denmark’s greatest science minds. “There’s HC Ørsted. Look right. There’s Tycho Brahe. Outside, there’s a bust of Niels Bohr.

But you’ll find no woman, neither hanging here on these walls nor memorialised outside. That’s a shame, and it’s high time the most prestigious place on campus gets its first lady. Elisabeth Toubrou’s work is an appropriate monument to not just Inge Lehmann, but also to her lifelong passion for science.”

Read the full reportage from the unveiling by Uniavisen here.