Sunday, July 25, 2010

Knitting and Science

Every so often one of the knitting magazines publishes an in-depth article about the life of a knitting designer or guru. Usually the profile includes an interview, during which the writer will ask about the knitterly training of the guru or designer. Many of our beloved teachers and designers had, not surprisingly, formal art training: Elizabeth Zimmermann, Kaffe Fassett, Susan Duckworth, among others. But the designers who come even more readily to my mind are the ones with the unlikely connection of knitting and science. Unlikely, one might think, because one is a left-brained activity, while the other is a right-brained one. Yet I cannot help but think the two pursuits are related, considering the number of knitters out there with science-related backgrounds.

Famous knitters who trained in science or mathematics (list is by no means exhaustive):

Barbara Walker geologist
Deborah Newton biologist
Norah Gaughan mathematics
Alice Starmore taught science; now a naturalist

Other knitters who trained in science/mathematics:

Fleegle: molecular genetics
DixieStix: computational chemist
Pretty kitty knitty whatever: cell & molecular biology
Purls and Curls: microbiology
Keyboard Biologist: computational biologist
Grumperina: neuroscientist
Skeintily Clad: scientist (cannot tell what kind)
Minestrone Soup: biochemistry & cell biology
Stream of Consciousness: chemist
Nik’s Knits: scientist (cannot tell what kind)
Critters and Spectacles: conservation biologist
One Crafty Snargle: ecologist/marine biologist
Chameleon Knits: chemist
Merino Girl: biochemist
Sissy Says: nucleic acid chemist
Soapbox: computer science
Frog Monkey: software engineer
Samurai Knitter: metallurgy/archeology
Etherknitter: anesthesiologist
Experimental Knitter: immunologist

When I was in graduate school back in the Dark Ages, I was the only student who knitted. My professors would have considered knitting a distraction: proof-positive that women did not belong in Ph.D. programs, which demanded of one the kind of devotion usually reserved for entering a cloistered religious order.

I’m glad to see so many young students of science who knit and share their science and knitting with the world. Ravelry has at least 2 groups devoted to knitters who do science or math when they're not knitting. As for my professors, pity them for they will never know the warmth of a hand-knit hat made from soft merino wool.


fleegle said...

And me too. I have a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics. In fact, my Ph.D. thesis involved yarn balls, answering the question as to how DNA winds up inside a T4 bacteriophage (no nostepinne is used).

Experimental Knitter said...

I had no idea! You and DH, 2 of a kind! Adding you to the list on edit. BTW, your PhD topic sounds way more fun than DH's- he figured out how restriction and methylation enzymes are regulated in the tetracycline-resistance promoter.

Knitrageous said...

In high school I was allowed to knit int class. College, I didn't take it to class but had it with me always to take a break. If I could knit during meetings, etc., at work, I could sure pay more attention. At one time my boss said I could. But then when I taught some others to knit. They made such a spectacle of it, we were told we couldn't. I'm in education and I think it would be great for some kids in some classrooms. Would improve their concentration and make even more knitting scientists!


Donna Lee said...

I wonder if this confluence of interests has something with the attention to detail involved in science and also in knitting? Scientists are all detail oriented and knitting is all about the details.

Something to ponder.

(I taught biology and earth science for 2 years but alas, am an English major!)

Knitrageous said...

Interesting timing!


Experimental Knitter said...

Thanks Jamye.
That's a nice post about scientists, especially those who knit sciency projects, another twist on the theme. I may have to knit up some microbes for the microbiologists in my family.