Street Science in Paris

I recently returned from a week’s holiday in Paris. It’s a beautiful place for just walking and looking and while we were there, spring finally arrived. On our last day, we were invited to a rehearsal of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France under the young Venezuelan conductor, Diego Matheuz. It was fascinating to watch a big orchestra working hard and creating wonderful music but with a degree of relaxation you don’t see in a formal concert. The rehearsal was in the Salle Pleyel, not far from the Arc de Triomph and afterwards we decided to do the ultimate touristy thing and walk down the Champs-Elysees. I’ve been to Paris many times but I can’t remember ever having done this. The street itself is a curious mixture of posh and tat but it was a sunny day and the views were magnificent both towards the Louvre and back to the Arc and I can see why some call it the world’s most beautiful avenue.
About two thirds of the way down the Champs-Elysees we could see, ahead of us, a series of striking, almost life sized, pictures set up in rows either side of the pavement so that they were visible to both pedestrians and motorists. It turned out that these were all pictures of women scientists, and the exhibition was part of the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the L’Oreal-UNESCO programme “For women in science”. Here is a photograph of some of the pictures, which were all of International Laureates of the Programme; the eagle-eyed will spot one of the OT bloggers, Athene Donald.

Athene Donald poster
Each of the portraits was accompanied by a lay description of the scientist’s work and the overall effect was very impressive. I don’t recall ever having seen anything like this in a public place frequented by thousands of people each day and it seems like a very good way to publicise both science and women in science.

Here are two links, one to more of the pictures and another to a post by Athene Donald about her experience as a Laureate.

About Philip Strange

After more than 30 years as an experimental scientist, I decided to have a complete change and moved to the West Country. I now write about science for several magazines and web sites and blog at
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