Women in Science (Part. 1)

Even for sporadic, I’ve not posted what I wanted to for Women’s History Month. Even in a month that holds a great deal of meaning for me, I’ve been held hostage by my very status as a modern, working woman. I am the primary breadwinner (although I work from home) while my husband gets his Ph.D., and I must work to keep food on the table.

But even though I work, I must still be the primary caregiver for my son, and do a few household chores (my husband does a lot too, though). Anyway, it means I’m very, very busy.

Today, though, I’d just like to do a quick survey of a few women in science, since that’s a subject that is also close to my heart. (I started out as a physics major in college.) Of course, we don’t learn about a lot of the women in science because they were often 1. not encouraged to participate, 2. not allowed to get an education, and therefore not taken seriously, 3. contributions were stolen by more prominent men, or 4. just ignored in general by history.

Merit Ptah: earliest record of woman in science, Egypt.

Female contributions were noted in Alexandria (“Mary the Jewess” prominent among them), where gnostics (before they were wiped out) valued women and their contributions.

Hypatia of Alexandria is probably the most famous of women scientists in the ancient world (she invented an astrolabe and a hydrometer).

Dorotea Bucca and Trotula di Ruggiero actually held chairs in universities in the Middle Ages. Something very rare, since women were often barred from university attendance, much less teaching.

Margaret Cavendish wrote quite a bit, engaged in scientific debate and did a number of other things. Unfortunately, as a woman, she was not allowed induction into the English Royal Society. Those nice men did condescend to let her attend a meeting. Once.

Maria Winkelmann contributed to her husband’s work and made some of her own discoveries, including a comet. Unfortunately, she was denied a post at the Berlin Academy because she was a woman and “mouths would gape.”

That’s brought us up to the Enlightenment. Next post will have more women in science.

Tags: women in science, Women’s History Month, Hypatia of Alexandria, Royal English Society,
Margaret Cavendish

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