(Exhibition text in English, referring to a QR code in the exhibition)

An Interdisciplinary Genius

Name: Grete (Clara Margarete) Hermann, married Henry
Born: 1901 in Bremen, Germany
Died: 1984 in Bremen, West Germany

Mathematician and philosopher. Writes the first algorithms for computer algebra in the 1920s, long before the first electronic computer.

Grete Hermann studies maths, physics and philosophy at university. In 1926, she earns her doctorate with a thesis that lays the foundations for complex algorithms and modern statistical data modelling. A few years later, Grete Hermann publishes an article disproving an established theory in quantum physics. Since she is first and foremost a philosopher and mathematician, the article is not recognised by physicists and Hermann’s findings are not rediscovered until 1966.

Grete Hermann is a member of the International Socialist League and active in the resistance against the Nazis. In 1936, she flees, first to Denmark and then to London. She marries in 1938 so that, in the event of war, she will not risk being labelled as an ’enemy alien’ and end up in an internment camp.

In 1946, the same year that Grete Hermann returns to Germany, the most famous early computer, Eniac, is completed. It weighs 30 tonnes, occupies 167 m2 of floor space and breaks down several times a week.

A Female Weapon Against the U.S. Mafia

Name: Elizebeth Smith, married Friedman
Born: 1892 in Huntington, Indiana, U.S.A.
Died: 1980 in Plainfield, New Jersey, U.S.A.

Pioneer of cryptography. Over the course of three years, she cracks over 12,000 coded messages.

An interest in Shakespeare leads Elizebeth Smith Friedman into the world of cryptography. An eccentric millionaire hires her to find hidden messages in the author’s works. The U.S. Armed forces do not have their own cryptography department, so Smith Friedman’s employer lends them her. Equipped with only paper and pencil, and using methods of her own invention, she cracks large numbers of German coded messages during World War I.

After the war, Elizebeth Smith Friedman becomes a housewife. In 1925, she is approached by the U.S. government. They ask for her help in combating alcohol and drug smuggling. In three years, Smith Friedman deciphers more than 12 000 coded messages, which in turn leads to 650 prosecutions. She testifies during several trials, including one against the brother of mobster Al Capone.

During World War II, Smith Friedman works for the U.S. Navy. She deciphers messages between German submarines and spies in South America. The work is top secret and the FBI takes all the credit for Smith Friedman’s work.

Crashes in Front of Thousands of Spectators

Elsa Andersson, Sweden’s first female pilot and parachuter, died on Sunday 22 January 1922. She crashed to her death during her fifth parachute jump outside Askersund.

Miss Andersson, daughter of farmers Alma and Edvard Andersson in Strövelstorp outside Ängelholm, received her training at Enoch Thulin’s flying school in Ljungbyhed. She passed her test in June 1920 and was the first Swedish woman to receive her aviator’s licence. In 1921, Elsa Andersson travelled to Berlin to learn how to parachute. The training was mostly theoretical, and included only two actual parachute jumps. After returning to Sweden, she did two more jumps before the disastrous moment when she crashed from a height of 650 metres. Miss Andersson is buried in the Strövelstorp parish cemetery.

What Shall We Call Them? Ladies on the Radio.

Four years after Sven Jerring announces the first broadcast of the new Swedish Radio Company on 1 January 1925, it’s the ladies’ turn. Who will be the first to go on air: will it be the 30-year-old Mrs Carin Hermelin from Eskilstuna, or Miss Margareta De Geer from Stockholm?

And what to call these ‘female presenters’? Many suggestions have been made: announcer, helloière, programme presenter? The suggestion hallådam (‘hello lady’) is rejected as it is too similar to the word hålldam (mistress). Female voices on the radio cause a lot of attention, and far from all of it is positive.


More about 2 20s (2 tjugotal)