Naming the Surface of Mercury

Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart has produced a new series for BBC Radio 4, Seek the Light. In the episode Out of the Shadows she delves into the intersection of planet Mercury and Scottish folk singing:

All the craters of Mercury are named after famous artists, Burns and Pushkin are there along with Bach and Boccaccio. And it was this dominance of white men that Annie wanted to challenge. The International Atstonomical Union’s naming conventions around new discoveries have proven themselves inherently sexist and exclusionary and Annie felt compelled to do waht she could to rebalance it. In her lifetime, Lady Carolina Nairne was responsible for such staples of Scottish folk singing as ‘Charlie is my darlin’ and ‘Caller Herrin’, yet she’s largely unknown, publishing much of her work anonymously or under pseudonyms. Now there is a corner of the universe that will forever be a testament to her talents.

I think a lot about sexist naming practices, given that I live in a city where almost all the streets and public buildings are named after colonial white men (as I type this, I’m sitting at the intersection of Pownal Street, named after John Pownall, secretary to the British Board of Trade and Plantations and Secretary of State, and Richmond Street, named for Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond).