This month I read Women In Science: 50 Fearless pioneers who changed the world by Rachel Ignotofsky as part of The Women In Science History Event hosted by Doing Dewey.
This was a fun book! As I said earlier this month, this book is geared towards younger readers -junior high school level- and is intended to whet their appetites to learn more about women in science. And, it succeeds! The left side of the page has a fun drawing of the scientist, highlighting her main contributions, and an inspiring quote from her at the bottom of the page. The right side of the page features the scientist’s name and field of study at the top of the page with a high level overview set against an eye catching colored background. Everything about this book is visually appealing and drew me in immediately.
The bad part about this book is that the stories are brief-I mean, just the main points, brief. The good part about this book is that it succeeded in making me want to learn more about these women of science. Google was definitely my friend.
It was great to learn that we have, at least, 50 female scientists in our history; but, it was sad that I have not heard of most of them. At the beginning of the month, I could only name a handful of female scientists; now, I am aware of so many more, and some, like Alice Ball, I won’t soon forget. It was also interesting to see all the different fields of study: chemistry, biology, botany, physics, astronomy, geology, psychology, genetics, engineering…
And there were fields of study I had never heard of: agrostology (a study of botany that focuses on grasses) and cytogenetics (the study of chromosomes).
Women have been contributing to science for hundreds of years and in many different ways. Some pursued higher education and worked harder and longer than their male counterparts; others did not pursue a degree, but let their passion for their subject matter drive them forward.
Florence Bascom was the second woman in the US to earn a doctorate in geology, but she had to take her classes behind a screen so that she would not be a distraction to the male students in her class. Agnes Chase was a botanist and suffragist, she never earned a degree, but became a senior botanist who wrote numerous books and “discovered thousands of new species of grasses from around the world”. Esther Lederberg was a biologist who, along with her husband Joshua, studied bacteria. Her research into bacterial mutations and their resistance to antibiotics helped her husband to win a Nobel Prize – and he never thanked her for her research in his speeches! Finally, Barbara McClintock-the cytogeneticist-discovered transposons. These are genes that “jump to a different part of a chromosome and turn on and off”, and it took 20 years for the scientific community to recognize her achievements. And then, when her work was recognized, she won the Nobel Prize!
It would be easy for me to go on about all of these brilliant women and their contributions to science. This book is a very easy read, you could read it while having a cup of coffee. What makes this book so great is that it really shows you that there are numerous female scientists who have worked tirelessly to better our world; now, we just need to learn more about who they were and recognize them for their accomplishments!