Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Geek mom of the Month: Merit Ptah



Sorry couldn't find a decent pic of her and settled for generic Egyptian doctors, meh...

I wanted to do something a bit 'vintage' this month. Merit Ptah is to this date the first female named scientist in all the history of humankind. Born in ancient Egypt around 2700 BCE she was the Chief Physician, according to the inscription done by her son on a tomb in the necropolis near the step pyramid of Saqqara.

Of course this is a bit of a controversial title. In Ancient Egypt there was no separation of science and religion and superstition. Even her name means Beloved of Ptah, a God.

Nevertheless this is the same civilization that created very sophisticated mummification techniques impressive even to modern Egyptologists. It would be unfair to measure them with the strict modern standards of science when they had their own way to deal with their knowledge of the human body.

Ancient Egypt was one of the few civilizations that allowed a high level of freedom and independence to the women in their society. Egyptian women could receive education, work, be represented in court, get equal pay for equal work, inherit land, own businesses and receive compensation in case of divorce, whether it was male or female initiated. The Egyptians also passed the 'divinity' of their rulers through women's blood. Any man desiring to be the Pharaoh had to marry a female with direct royal blood, sometimes even if this woman was his sister or daughter. They also allowed women to rule. True not as Queens, but as co-rulers or bearing the title of Divine Wife. But some like Hatshepsut, managed to take the place of the male Pharaoh by using their attributes during rituals and official appearances.

We know little about Merit Ptah but the fact that she managed to mark her place in history as a doctor surely deserves to be remembered by all generation of mothers and scientist in the world.
Deservedly so, The International Astronomical Union named the impact crater Merit Ptah on Venus after her.

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