EXPIRED: 10/22/09 – Irene Fischer, 102, fled Nazi Austria in 1939 and traveled as far across the globe as she could have ever imagined, finally settling in Boston, Massachusetts. Who could have guessed that someday she’d know more about how big the world was than most people on the planet?

A mathametician by trade, Fisher took jobs as a seamstress and later graded papers for Harvard and MIT professors. Then, in the 50’s, Fischer took a job with the Army Map Service in Washington DC, where she was told she would be responsible for determining the size and shape of the earth.

“Wasn’t I taught that in grade school already? How come they don’t know?’’ Mrs. Fischer thought, according to her 2005 memoir, “Geodesy? What’s That? My Personal Involvement in the Age-Old Quest for the Size and Shape of the Earth.’’

It was a difficult task in a difficult environment, but Fischer had dealt with difficulties before – remember, she lived in Nazi Austria.

She was an intelligent and determined scientist who struggled against bureaucracy, sexism, and Cold War-era security concerns. She spent 25 years in the geodesy branch and worked her way up to division chief and was eventually inducted into the National Imaging and Mapping Hall of Fame.

In 2001 she moved back to Boston, to a retirement community just three blocks from the home where she had first lived after fleeing the Nazis.

Small world.



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