On This Day
1793 – A Goddess of Reason is proclaimed by the French Convention at the suggestion of Pierre Gaspard Chaumette.
The Cult of Reason (French: Culte de la Raison)[note 1] was France’s first established state-sponsored atheistic religion, intended as a replacement for Roman Catholicism during the French Revolution. It also rivaled Robespierre’s Cult of the Supreme Being.
Opposition to the Roman Catholic Church was integral among the causes of the French Revolution, and this anti-clericalism solidified into official government policy in 1792 after the First French Republic was declared. Most of the dechristianisation of France was motivated by political and economic concerns, and philosophical alternatives to the Church developed more slowly. Among the growing heterodoxy, the so-called Culte de la Raison became defined by some of the most radical revolutionaries like Jacques Hébert, Antoine-François Momoro, Pierre-Gaspard Chaumette, and Joseph Fouché.
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Born On This Day
1887 – Elisa Leonida Zamfirescu, Romanian engineer and academic (d. 1973)
Elisa Leonida Zamfirescu (10 November 1887 – 25 November 1973) was one of the world’s first female engineers. She was born in Romania but qualified in Berlin. During World War one she managed a hospital in Romania.
Early life and education
Elisa Zamfirescu was born in Galați, Romania on 10 November 1887. Her father, Atanase Leonida, was a career officer while her mother, Matilda Gill, was the daughter of a French-born engineer. Her brother Dimitrie Leonida was also an engineer.
Due to prejudices against women in the sciences, Zamfirescu was rejected by the School of Bridges and Roads in Bucharest. In 1909 she was accepted at the Royal Academy of Technology Berlin, Charlottenburg. She graduated in 1912, with a degree in engineering. It has been claimed that Zamfirescu was the world’s first female engineer, but the Irish engineer Alice Perry graduated six years before Zamfirescu in 1906.
Returning to Romania, Zamfirescu worked as an assistant at the Geological Institute of Romania. During World War I, she joined the Red Cross and ran a hospital at Mărășești Romania. In 1917 her hospital received the wounded from the Battle of Mărășești between the German and the Romanian armies. It was a victory by Romania over 28 days during which there were over 12,000 Romanian and over 10,000 of the invaders who were wounded.
Around this time, she met and married chemist Constantin Zamfirescu, brother of the politician and writer Duiliu Zamfirescu.
After the war, Zamfirescu returned to the Geological Institute. She led several geology laboratories and participated in various field studies, including some that identified new resources of coal, shale, natural gas, chromium, bauxite and copper. Zamfirescu also taught physics and chemistry.
Later life and death
Zamfirescu retired in 1963, aged 75. In retirement she was involved in activism for disarmament. She died at the age of 86 on 25 November 1973.
An award for women working in science and technology was established in her name, the Premiul Elisa Leonida-Zamfirescu.
Honours and awards
Zamfirescu was the first woman member of A.G.I.R. (General Association of Romanian Engineers). A street in Sector 1 of Bucharest bears her name, and she was honoured with a Google Doodle on the anniversary of her birthday in 2018.
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