I get asked that a fair bit – and why I use the name. Hypatia is one of those complex figures in history. She’s popularly known as the last librarian at the Great Library of Alexandria, in Egypt – but as always, the history is far more complex than that. Wikipedia’s article is actually a decent starting place: she was a teacher of philosophy, mathematics and astronomy before being likely killed during a flare of violence provoked by competing religious views.
My legal name involves a very common first name (Jennifer) and a not so common last name (Arnott). I don’t particularly try and hide the latter (as you can see if you click through on links to presentations) but there are times where I’d rather have a username rather than my full legal name on display. As I was casting around, a friend suggested ModernHypatia as a username for me: while I’m not strong as a mathematician, and I have only very general training in astronomy, I’ve long appreciated Hypatia’s multi-disciplinary approach, and her commitment (as best we can tell through a muddle of history) to the search for real knowledge, not popular understanding.
Why the whale?
I grew up in the Boston area, but lived in Minnesota between 1999 and 2011. In the summer of 2008, while visiting friends and family in Boston, I went out on my first whale watch ever – the photo in the header is from that trip. (We were, of course, much further away than that photo appears to be: my camera has a good zoom function.)
Whales delight and amaze me: there’s so much we still have to learn about the wealth of interconnection, communication, and ties between communities that are echoed in our sea life. The image here is to remind me to dive deep and travel far in my search for understanding and knowledge – but to do so in company of others.
I’ve now moved back to the ocean (well, sort of. I’m in inland Maine, not coastal), but one of the things I did on my last day before I started work at the new job was another whale watch.