Good date for bright women

Layout 1Above: Sophia Brahe and Devi Sridhar.

ON THIS DATE, DECEMBER 8, seventeen-year-old Sophia Brahe helped her brother observe a total lunar eclipse, and eighteen-year-old Devi Sridhar became the youngest U.S. Rhodes Scholar. Brahe’s contributions to astronomy stand out because young sixteenth-century Danish women (or old women, for that matter) were discouraged from studying the sciences. With the help of her brother, Tycho Brahe, Sophia trained in horticuluture and chemistry as well as astronomy.

This was also a good date for Patrick Leigh Fermor, who began a walk through Europe that he would detail many decades later in a pair of much-admired travel books.

A closer look …

DEC. 8, 1573: SOPHIA BRAHE, seventeen, assists her brother, Tycho Brahe, in predicting and observing a total lunar eclipse. Tycho will praise his sister’s “animus invictus” (determined mind). The Danish brother and sister are among the first people to record accurate positions of the planets in the late 16th century.

DEC. 8, 1933: PATRICK LEIGH FERMOR, eighteen, begins a thrilling journey through Europe that he will recount in a pair of memoirs, A Time of Gifts (1977) and Between the Woods and the Water (1986). The British travel writer starts his trip in the hook of Holland and moves mostly on foot “like a tramp or pilgrim.”

DEC. 8, 1997: LEANN RIMES, fifteen, wins the artist of the year award at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.

DEC. 8, 2002: DEVI SRIDHAR, eighteen, becomes the youngest U.S. Rhodes scholar in the organization’s 100-year history. The daughter of two doctors, Sridhar had entered the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, at age sixteen. She is three and a half weeks younger than the previous record-holder, Michael Lanham, a 2000 Rhodes Scholar from Centre College in Kentucky.

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