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150th ‘birthday’ of Tine Tammes, the University of Groningen’s first female professor

23 June 2021
Tine Tammes

In 1871, the year in which Aletta Jacobs became the first woman to study at a university, Tine Tammes was born in Peperstraat in Groningen. And 23 June 2021 would have been her 150th birthday. She turned out to be ‘a very gifted child who applied herself to science with heart and soul’. This was despite the fact that she was not allowed to take academic exams, as in those days, girls’ secondary schools were not a gateway to university. But as well as being gifted, Tine was also very determined. She persuaded Jan Willem Moll, Professor of Botany, to mobilize his old boys’ network for her and she spent time working for Hugo de Vries in Amsterdam, where she practised genetics, a new and fast-developing field. In 1919, she became the first female professor to be appointed in Groningen.

Tine Tammes

Although Tammes carried out international ground-breaking research, she remained firmly rooted in Groningen. She produced convincing research showing that Mendel’s Laws of Heredity could also explain inherited traits such as height. Her evidence was based on the results of experiments, in which she crossed varieties of flax grown in the botanic garden of the University of Groningen, located between Grote Kruisstraat and Grote Rozenstraat. Although she answered a pressing question from the early days of genetics, her work was largely ignored; foreign male colleagues managed to attract more attention with far less compelling research. This bias against acknowledging academic work conducted by women is known as the Matilda effect in science, named after an English suffragette.

UG alumnus and science historian Ida Stamhuis (Haren, i.h.stamhuis@vu.nl) recently started a biography that not only discusses Tine Tammes’ international scientific achievements, but also affords her a firm place in the Groningen Academic world between1900 and 1940. In 1996, an article Stamhuis wrote about Tine Tammes won her the American ‘History of Women in Science Prize’.

Last modified:25 June 2021 12.39 p.m.
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