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Weekly Scientist Obit: The (Other) Iron Lady

Maria Petrou designed complex machines that could solve problems in forest regeneration, medical scanning, and astrophysics. However, one challenge eluded her: that darn laundry.

Petrou had a long and successful career in data analysis and robotics. She wrote multiple books on image processing, and, in 2004, was elected to be a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. However, Maria’s
great aunt was unimpressed by these accomplishments, once asking her, “Why can’t they develop something really useful, like an ironing robot?”

“Leave the Laundry to the Robots.”

In response to her great aunt’s inquiry, Maria created the Clothes Perception and Manipulation project (CloPeMa). According to the CloPeMa website, the goal of this
initiative is “to advance the state of the art in the autonomous perception and manipulation of fabrics, textiles and garments.” Sure, that description sounds a bit complicated…but then again, ironing is not easy.

CloPeMa has not developed a full service laundry robot yet, but the project continues in dedication to Maria’s memory.

Read Petrou’s Telegraph obituary here.

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Caitlin Shure

    Caitlin is a contributor to the Secret Life blog. She is also a student at Columbia Journalism School, completing her master’s degree in science journalism. Caitlin does not love all science equally; favorite topics of rumination include neuroscience, genetics, and evolutionary theory. Caitlin draws inspiration from James Watson and Rupaul Andre Charles.