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GirlGeek of the Week
January 2000

Patricia Schwarz

Patricia Schwarz

When I was little I really wanted to go to Mars. I loved science fiction and I loved math. But when I turned thirteen I developed a raging social consciousness and veered towards writing and photography, becoming editor of a weekly newspaper when I was in college.

Spending a very cold winter in a small mountain town and experiencing the high cost of heat energy re-ignited my interest in physics and math, so I went back to school with the intent of becoming a mechanical engineer. Two things got in my way: Einstein's theory of general relativity, and a Commodore 64 computer. I learned programming as any engineering student must, but when I programmed a numerical solution to the Schrodinger equation of quantum mechanics in BASIC on my little Commodore 64 (with my 13 inch color TV as the monitor) I was hooked on both computing and on theoretical physics.

When the Web came around, I was working on a NeXT, doing gorgeous graphics of mathematical equations using the math application Mathematica. I decided to put my work on the web, and my first home page quickly grew to be an entire home web site. The URL is It was so much fun, I realized I could never devote myself to a normal career in academia. So now I'm building a physics school on the web, to be called The Internet School of the Universe.

When did you first discover your love and/or obsession with computers and technology?

My little Commodore 64, with no memory or monitor, was my first computer love. But I still miss my NeXT. That was the greatest computer love of my life.

How do you earn a living?

The Internet School of the Universe is still in the pre-revenue phase. My husband is my angel funding right now.

Do you consider yourself a Geek?

I programmed the Schrodinger equation in BASIC on a Commodore 64. There's only one word to describe someone who would do that.

What is your favorite Web site?

One of the most interesting topics I have found elaborated on the web is ancient women's history. For example, the Center for the Study of Eurasian Nomads, run by Jeannine Davis-Kimball, has a fascinating article about ancient warrior women whose graves were discovered along the southern border of Russia. Another good one is 9000 Years of Anatolian Woman.

What do you do when you are not working?

For the last several years I have found myself reading a lot of history, especially the history of women. I highly recommend the book Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years, by archaeologist Elizabeth Wayland Barber. It's about the history of textiles. The loom was the first complex programmable technology, and it was controlled and developed by women. This is an amazing book!

I also like to ski, garden, cook, and hang out with my dog.


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