Women In Science: Alice Ball

Alicia Augusta Ball

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week I blogged about Elizabeth Blackwell in honor of the Women In Science History Event hosted by Doing Dewey. This week I would like to feature Alice Ball.
I am reading  Women In Science- 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world by Rachel Ignotofsky and I am learning so much about the various women of science, including how little I know about them.

As I was reading through this book, I knew that I wanted to write about Alice Ball; I found her story both inspiring and heartbreaking. She was someone that I was previously ignorant of, but thanks to this book, I now know what a remarkable woman she was. In her short life she made a big impact on seriously ill patients who were ostracized by their society. What did she do?  She developed a treatment for Leprosy that was able to be injected. Sadly, I also learned about the leper colony in Hawaii where those afflicted with Leprosy were sent-often after being arrested! Arrested for being sick!?? This is why science is so important: so facts trump fear.

A treatment already existed, the “sticky oil of the Chaulmoogra tree’s seeds”, but it couldn’t be mixed with water and injected (it wasn’t very effective when applied topically or ingested). Alice Ball changed that and at the age of 23, she successfully developed a method to inject this vital remedy by “…isolating the ethyl esters in its fatty acids, she found the oil could be blended with water for injection.” P 45  This is the key to her work: the medicine could now be injected, making it much more effective. In doing so, she reunited families and allowed those afflicted with Leprosy to return home to live normal lives.

Alice Ball was remarkable in many ways. She was not only the first woman, but also the first African-American to graduate from the University of Hawaii. What an accomplishment! She earned her Masters degree in chemistry and then immediately went to work. Sadly,  she passed away at the age of 24. Tragic.

 The book gives a very high level overview of her life, but further reading adds that someone else took credit for her ideas after her death and it was many years before she was recognized for her contributions. Also, there seems to be some controversy over her death and her death certificate may even have been altered. The book doesn’t get into this, further online reading does, but I would love to learn more about this amazing woman and seek out a good biography of her. I would also like to learn more about this leper colony. As it turns out, Leprosy is NOT highly contagious and it’s sad to think about how this fear of contagion has hurt so many people through the years. Learning more about this disease and this colony would highlight, not only her contribution to science, but just how she set so many people free.

Women In Science: Elizabeth Blackwell 

In honor of the Women In Science History Event, hosted by Doing Dewey, I have also picked up Women In Science- 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world by Rachel Ignotofsky.

  I will be reading this along with The Stargazer’s Sister by Carrie Brown during the month of March. This book, which is geared towards younger readers, gives a high level overview of several female scientists throughout history and their various contributions. Its a fun book, visually appealing, but its also incredibly  educational. I’m sad to say that I have not heard of most these women, but it’s inspiring to read their stories and learn more about them. I will post more about my thoughts on this book at the end of the month, but, for now, I would like to highlight at least one notable female scientist each week that I have learned about from this book. I will post these each week with the weekly link up over at Doing Dewey-so be sure to hop over to her blog to read any weekly updates. This week, I would like to share more about Elizabeth Blackwell.

  Here are a few facts that I learned about her from this book:

  • She decided to become a doctor after a friend of hers died from  cancer-probably uterine cancer 
  • She became the first female medical doctor in the US
  • Her sister, Emily, was also a doctor 
  • In 1857, Elizabeth opened the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children with her sister, Emily, and another inspiring female doctor: Marie Zakrzewska 
  • There, the poor were treated and female students received medical training 
  • She also urged hospitals to practice better hygiene 
  • In fact, her thesis was about how hygiene could stop the spread of typhus
  • She helped other women to pursue a career in medicine 

What an inspiration! She worked hard to achieve her goal which allowed her to provide medical care to the poor and needy and, along the way, she blazed a trail for women who wanted to pursue a career in medicine.

      I have learned that there are actually many women of science in history, we just don’t know that much about them. They made sacrifices and persevered because of their love of learning and passion for their subject matter. Their stories are inspiring and their contributions and  discoveries  are still being used today. March is Women’s History Month, read on and enjoy learning more about Women In Science! 

      Women in Science History Event

      Hello, Book Lovers!

      I’d like to make you aware of a  great reading event taking place during the month of March.

       Doing Dewey is hosting a Women In Science History  Event. The goal is to read a book about a female scientist and then blog about it. You can read non fiction or historical fiction as long as the book features a real, historical female scientist. You can check out her post to read more about it and she offers a few book recommendations to get you started if your interested.

      This event sounds like a lot of fun! I will be reading The Stargazer’s Sister by Carrie Brown, which is a work of historical fiction. It’s about Caroline Herschel, the sister of William Herschel, who discovered Uranus. Although the two worked together, Caroline made her own contributions to the field of astronomy. I remember learning about Caroline and William from Dava Sobel’s book The Planets.  In the chapter on the discovery of Uranus, Caroline filled us in on the details surrounding the discovery of the planet. The Stargazer’s Sister promises to explore, not only Caroline’s life, but her journey towards independence and becoming an astronomer of her own.

      This is going to be a great event!

      The Whole Story Of Climate by E. Kirsten Peters 

      Happy New Year! OK, it’s a little late for that, but I’m working on getting back into a regular routine and this is my first post of the new year. There was a lot of busyness over the holidays, there always is, and, I must say, it’s nice to get back to normal.

      I altered my reading schedule significantly and ended up picking up a book I wasn’t looking for that turned out to be a surprise treat.

      You may, or may not be, well read on the topic of climate change, but I think this book is well worth the read because of the author’s unique perspective and her vast knowledge of geology-FYI: your going to learn ALOT about glaciers-she also delves into some history by highlighting certain geologists and scientists who have contributed to our understanding of climate change.  

      The author, E. Kirsten Peters, earned her doctorate at Harvard, taught at Washington State University and has even written two textbooks. This goes to show that this author is well qualified to speak about geology and the information she is sharing should be seriously considered. She has written other books too, mostly about geology, but this is the first and only book I have read of hers. I must say that I have learned so much from her through this book! I have definitely learned more about glaciers from this one book than probably all the science books I have read up till now. If the topic of glaciers should ever come up at a party, I will have something intelligent to add to the conversation. 🙂

      This book is written from a geologists POV so she has a unique, and in my opinion very interesting, perspective to consider. She starts off by explaining who discovered the Ice Age , Louis Agassiz, and how he did it. Interestingly, he was actually trying to disprove this “heretical” view held by a friend of his and in the process he proved it to be true. The main point of the book is that climate changes naturally and there is a pattern to this change. Peters explains how climate has changed over time, and we learn through numerous examples that climate alternates between long periods of cold weather, followed by shorter periods of warm weather, only to return to cold weather again. She uses several different methods to illustrate this pattern– e.g. glacial ice, ice core samples and seafloor sediment to name but a few, but by no means is she saying that we have not contributed to climate change. In fact, she makes a point early on in the book to say that this is not her intent. The earth may have its own cycle of “endless change” as the subtitle states, but humans are contributing to climate change and in ways I did not even realize.

      She tells us about a new hypothesis currently being discussed in scientific circles of how the early agricultural practices of slash- and-burn to clear ground for crops may have been contributing to climate change. Time will tell whether or not this method had a role in climate change, but it was interesting to learn how and why trees are “natural carbon banks”.  She also talks about the coal fires that have been burning for years and their effect on the atmosphere and the people who live near them.  There was a lot I was unaware of regarding coal fires so this was educational for me.

      In fact, there was so much that was educational for me in this book!  I really enjoyed learning about the different methods scientists use to study, not just past climate, but the past, period. For example, I learned how air bubbles in the ice cores tell us how our atmosphere has changed, the pollen record tells us more about which trees were growing in the past, I learned how glacial ice plays a role in erosion and even how the remains of warm vs. cold tolerant  creatures on the seafloor reflect past conditions.

      I think her book is easy to read and I like her writing style. She was balanced in her approach as she addressed different perspectives for a subject that can be quite controversial. There were a lot of details in this book, but I personally enjoyed this. This book may not appeal to everyone, but I felt that this book allowed me to zoom out to see the bigger picture and all the complexities that are involved. And that made it well worth the read.

      Happy Thanksgiving!

      Image result for happy thanksgiving reading and books


       My reading has slowed down somewhat, but that’s okay, it usually does this time of the year. I can’t believe Thanksgiving is already here, but here we are, and I am very thankful that I will be spending time with my family  today. With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and sometimes life in general, it’s nice to just enjoy spending time with family and friends. I hope wherever you are today that you are able to spend some time with the people who matter most to you.

      I wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

      WWW Wednesday, November 16

      Happy Autumn, Everyone! I hope your enjoying all that this wonderful season has to offer: cooler temperatures, fall colors, butternut squash soup and pumpkin…everything! 🙂 And, I hope your reading some good books too! Its been a while since I posted a weekly book meme. I should try to participate in more of these because they are so much fun and there are quite a few out there to participate in. Here is a fun one hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Books. She is also participating in NaNoWriMo, so check out her blog to read more from her:)

      Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!


      The Three Ws are:

      What are you currently reading?
      What did you recently finish reading?
      What do you think you’ll read next?


      A coworker recommended this book to me and then lent me her copy. I have had it for a while now, but I have only recently started reading it. So far, I find it incredibly well written and engaging. I think I am going to enjoy this book. It’s also happens to be my favorite genre: historical fiction!

      It’s about Mary Todd Lincoln. It starts off with Mary in an insane asylum and when her son doesn’t support and defend her the way she expected, she starts to write about her life. She does this partly to combat the lies she reads about herself in the newspaper and partly to keep her sanity. I’m not very far into this book yet, but the writing is great and I find that I really want to know more about Mary.

      Image result for mrs a lincoln book

      I finished this book recently and I thought that it was a great! It’s was so informative and interesting; it was fascinating to learn more about our Solar System, and the science behind it all sheds some light on our origins. You can read my review of this book here if your interested. 🙂


      Image result for how to read solar system chris north


      Finally, I am eagerly looking forward to reading this novel for the Women’s Classic Literature Event. Once I finish my current book, I will be moving on to this one!

      Image result for rebecca daphne du maurier

       This was fun! What are you reading? What do you plan to read next? Do you have any ‘Must Reads’ you would recommend? Tell me in the comments below.


      How To Read The Solar System by Chris North and Paul Abel 

      Science. It’s actually really interesting, but it’s also much more enjoyable to learn more about science when you choose to learn more rather than when you are compelled to learn more.

      I have recently started reading more science books, namely astronomy, and I find the subject matter absolutely fascinating!

      I just finished this book:

      I read the first few chapters of this book while simultaneously reading other books, but, from Mars on, I focused exclusively on this book. 🙂  And, if your going to read this book you should definitely focus, take your time and enjoy learning more about the subject matter. By the time I finished reading this book I almost forgot what I had learned about the Aurora Borealis!

      The book is written by Chris North and Paul Abel, who, as stated on the cover, are hosts of a BBC series called “The Sky at Night”.  However, since I am unfamiliar with both the series and these authors, I came to this book with fresh eyes which, at least for me,  turned out to be a good thing because I feel like I discovered a great gem of a book.

      Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It’s an introductory book to our Solar System, and it’s 304 pages are filled with lots of good information about each of the planets and their respective moons. It also focuses on the Sun, comets, asteroids, minor planets and life in the Kuiper Belt. A nice added feature is that these authors provide helpful tips for the “amateur astronomer”to aid them in their observations of the planets. They briefly explain how using an optical filter or adjusting the size of the telescope will affect what you see. They also suggest when to view the planets and what you may see at that time.  This book also has a helpful glossary at the end, so if your not quite sure you understood what cryovolcanism meant, you can flip to the back for clarification. 🙂

      I learned a lot from reading this book, not just about the planets, but also about the moons that orbit the planets in our Solar System. Many of these satellites are just as diverse and interesting as the planets they orbit-and some planets have an astonishingly large number of moons in their orbit! If you want to learn more about them, then this book will be a wonderful resource. I also learned that comets seem to be made of the same substance as the Sun and that other solar systems are not just like ours. Are we special? One of a kind? I guess this is why we spend so much time and money studying the Universe to try and answer this question.

      I appreciated the detailed information these authors provided in this book. It wasn’t too much so as to overwhelm a newbie with its science, but it also went beyond mere basics. There was so much that I learned from this book that if I shared all that I learned, then this post would go on for quite a while. But, suffice it to say, each chapter gave me an opportunity to learn and consider something new. I enjoyed learning more about the chemical make up of the planets and how this affected their atmosphere and weather patterns. Jupiter has had a storm raging for hundreds of years now! I learned from this book that it’s famous  Great Red Spot is an “anticyclone” so “it spins anticlockwise”(P 190) and over time it has decreased in size. This is definitely one interesting planet!  It’s fascinating how life in space evolved from chemical reactions which, over time, led to the creation of our Sun and ultimately to our Solar System.

      I enjoyed learning about comets and asteroids and I really enjoyed learning more about the Kuiper Belt. To me, this is deep space, and, not only do we know about it, but we have discovered dwarf planets out there! What will we discover next? And, what will we learn about our origins?

      How To Read The Solar System is aimed at those who already have some knowledge and interest in astronomy and want to learn more. After reading Dava Sobel’s The Planets  I wanted to read something a little more in depth, and this book fit the bill. The writing isn’t as creative as Dava Sobel’s, and, I’m sad to say that this book has some typos which was distracting, but this book was incredibly informative and interesting. This book is a great introduction to astronomy for those who want to learn more and grow in their knowledge and understanding of the subject. I, for one, am very glad I took the time to read it!