Pharyngula

Prompted by the skewed gender representation of a recent survey of science blogs, Zuska asks why there are no great women science bloggers. That’s an ironic question, of course: there are great women science bloggers, but there is a strange blindness to their contributions, just as they are neglected in the greater blogosphere, and in science, and in politics, and in everything other than raising babies and making attractive centerpieces for the family dinner table, etc. It’s a curious phenomenon that we have to try consciously to rise above, an effort hampered by the fact that there seem to be a lot of people who want to argue that you aren’t allowed to make a special effort to avoid gender bias — it’s apparently “unfair” to try to overcome a history of unfairness.

Anyway, something that came up independently: here I am teaching this new freshman biology course, and the last few weeks have been a survey of the history and philosophy of science — basically, Aristotle to Bacon, with the latest lectures on 19th century geology and natural history as a prelude to Darwin. It’s a bit depressing when you look back at it that there are a few thousand years of history there where women don’t seem to be present except for the important business of laundering the togas. I’m conscious of it and a bit uncomfortable about the absence of women in the story so far (there will be a lecture dedicated to women in science this term), and when I was composing the first exam the other day, I had a long section where I was grilling them on a bunch of Dead White Guys, so I tossed in these two questions:

14. Hey! Have you noticed the lack of women scientists so far? Briefly speculate about why they’re missing.

15 (2 pts extra credit). Name a female scientist of any era.

The answers to question 14 so far have been consistent: because women weren’t given opportunities. Because they were told to make babies and cook meals. Because men didn’t give them any respect. (There were several that said that despite past oppression, everything was changing for the better now; I’m going to have to engage in a little disillusionment sometime.)

Question 15 was supposed to be a gimme, a really easy question that they should have answered easily, especially since we’d just had the freshman biology major mixer the night before, where they were introduced to 3 women biology faculty. I have a bunch of students who left question 15 blank, or said they couldn’t think of any! Now that was depressing.

Just to compensate, though, and this is something that might cheer Zuska up a little bit, there were a handful of women students who gave the best answer ever: they named themselves. I’d give them a big gold star, but that kind of self-confidence is its own best reward.

Comments

  1. #1 SEF
    September 20, 2007

    there were a handful of women students who gave the best answer ever: they named themselves

    Now things just have to reach the stage where the males in the class would simply glance round and get themselves a similar freebie for Q15 by writing down the name of one of their female peers. Were a female colleague of yours to set the test, would even they managed to get named by some students?

  2. #2 Natasha Yar-Routh
    September 20, 2007

    Nice post and kudos to the women who answered with their own names. I’m afraid I would have answered number 15 with Mdm Currie only because while I can think of several others I can’t remember their names! Maybe I need some Complexin to regrow some neurons.

  3. #3 PZ Myers
    September 20, 2007

    Heh. The #1 most common answer to that question: Marie Curie. Nothing against her, but that’s another sign that we have a problem: that most people think of just one name.

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    September 20, 2007

    Has anybody done actual statistics on this? I mean, I’ve seen an awful lot of comments thrown around, and explanations proposed for this and that, but I don’t know what the actual ratios are, let alone whether they differ across fields of science or if they’re changing over time.

    I doubt the figures are good, but I’d like to know what they are.

  5. #5 Moses
    September 20, 2007

    14. Hey! Have you noticed the lack of women scientists so far? Briefly speculate about why they’re missing.

    The answer is more complex than the simple “PC” answer typically given, though the “PC” answer does encompass much of it; though filtered through our view of history rather than theirs. And, yes, things have gotten a lot better since even the turn of the prior century. This is not to confuse it with “perfect.”

    15 (2 pts extra credit). Name a female scientist of any era.

    My wife. Deena. Her PI. Half, if not more, of her Post-Doc lab mates. Rachel Carson. Marie Curie. Jane Goodall. Joan Feynman. Sophia Brahe (Tycho’s wife). Florence Nightingale. Hypatia.

    Do I get an “A?” 🙂

  6. #6 Bryn
    September 20, 2007

    I would have probably gone with Annie Cannon. Or, having just finished “Fermat’s Enigma”, Hypatia or Sophie Germain. I think Annie might still have won out, being involved with astronomy and all.

  7. #7 Despard
    September 20, 2007

    I recently applied for a postdoctoral travel award to attend the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego in November. Still don’t know if I’ve got it, but I don’t think it’s likely – wouldn’t they have told me by now? Anyway.

    One of the things I had to do was write a short essay (~500 words) about a woman in science who had inspired me. I’m ashamed to say I thought of Marie Curie instantly, but then I thought: hang on, that’s the only female scientist I can think of? And besides, she never inspired me.

    Happily I work in a field with lots of famous women. Well, famous in the field, anyway: Sarah-Jane Blakemore, Antonia Hamilton, Susan Greenfield to name but a few. In the end I picked Susan Blackmore because I remember reading The Meme Machine when still an undergraduate physics student and thinking: wow, this is really interesting, the brain is quite cool, maybe I’ll see if I can do some psychology for my postgrad… and the rest is history.

    Endnote: It is interesting though rather sad how many female graduate students I went through my PhD with, and how few continued in academic science.

  8. #8 Rey Fox
    September 20, 2007

    Shame on me: Curie was the only one I can think of. But there was that gal who helped Watson & Crick discover DNA, but I can’t remember her danged name even though it was in an issue of Y: The Last Man. ARGH.

    I guess I personally could also go with the wildlife biologist about twenty feet over from me right now.

  9. #9 Rey Fox
    September 20, 2007

    “Jane Goodall.”

    And Diane Fosse! Do I get extra credit now?

  10. #10 Rey Fox
    September 20, 2007

    Answer: No, since I didn’t pre-Google and spell her name correctly.

  11. #11 Justin Moretti
    September 20, 2007

    If I were one of these girls, I would not have dared name myself – nor would I have named one of them if I were a male classmate.

    Why not? Because if they are freshmen, they are by definition not yet (fully trained) scientists, and IMO not entitled to call themselves such.

    I would also have answered Mme Curie for #15, because she probably IS the most famous woman scientist, and that’s (a) how most people misread the question and (b) the first name that comes to mind under perceived time pressure.

    OTOH, Janet Stemwedel and Tara C. Smith are both in my “Favourites folder” – but I have already subclassified them as “chemist” and “epidemiologist”, and so my mind does not immediately make the leap to “scientist”. Possibly it’s because I’ve been reading about Curie since I was a boy, and she got the label “scientist” long before I knew what a “physicist” was.

  12. #12 factlike
    September 20, 2007

    Would Ada Lovelace qualify? She was more of a computer scientist than a physical scientist, but I’m not sure how wide a net we’re casting here…

  13. #13 Johanna
    September 20, 2007

    Rey Fox: You mean Rosalind Franklin.
    (She’s who I would have answered–my high school biology/genetics teacher mentioned her, I got interested, and now am working in fungal genetics to get my Ph.D.!)

  14. #14 Token
    September 20, 2007

    Shame on me: Curie was the only one I can think of. But there was that gal who helped Watson & Crick discover DNA, but I can’t remember her danged name even though it was in an issue of Y: The Last Man. ARGH.

    You mean Rosalind Franklin. She was the one I’d have gone for.

  15. #15 scott
    September 20, 2007

    The gender bias in science is extreme. Consider how many graduate students are women compared to how few faculty members are women. If women choose to have a life/family (which I know the academy frowns upon), when exactly should this happen? Many aspects of an academic’s life are postponed relative to others of their same age, but biology puts limits on when women can have children. There are known health benefits associated with having children sooner rather than later. Even if you wait until the last possible minute to have kids, you probably don’t have tenure yet. There really is no good time, is there?

    It is a great shame that women cannot often return to tenure-track careers after taking time off to start a family. These women are highly trained and have great potential for contributing to their respective fields and the teaching and research mission of universities, but because there is so little flexibility in the successful academic CV, science loses the female perspective.

    Hopefully, when the guard changes, this will too. It will if I have anything to say about it.

  16. #16 Ebonmuse
    September 20, 2007

    Lynn Margulis is a justifiably famous female scientist, even if she’s sort of gone off the rails lately.

  17. #17 Carlie
    September 20, 2007

    Marie Stopes. Paleobotanist and women’s reproductive rights crusader. My hero.

  18. #18 Ian B Gibson
    September 20, 2007

    Barbara McClintock, of course.

    Once again into the assumed silence of the homogametic sex

    Yes, male moths are pretty quiet, aren’t they?

  19. #19 Ms. S
    September 20, 2007

    With my students I make sure to hit Rosalind Franklin’s story pretty hard, and follow it with a bit of discussion about why science isn’t just for white males. No idea if it helps or not – but it does throw the girls into outrage that there aren’t more famous women scientists. I encourage the outrage and tell them to go forth and make a difference…

    Side question: Didn’t I hear somewhere that for the last couple of years now, the first-year med students nationwide have been predominantly female? I could be mistaken, though.

  20. #20 John Danley
    September 20, 2007

    Where’s Eugenie Scott when you need her?

  21. #21 Rey Fox
    September 20, 2007

    “Yes, male moths are pretty quiet, aren’t they?”

    Male birds, too.

  22. #22 SEF
    September 20, 2007

    but that’s another sign that we have a problem: that most people think of just one name.

    But you added to that problem, by leaving Rosalind Franklin off your course notes when pretending Watson and Crick did the DNA work.

  23. #23 Ginger Yellow
    September 20, 2007

    I’d have gone with Tara, Blakemore, or one of my mates at Oxford (although I suppose if I were sitting the test they wouldn’t have been my mates).

  24. #24 Caledonian
    September 20, 2007

    there seem to be a lot of people who want to argue that you aren’t allowed to make a special effort to avoid gender bias — it’s apparently “unfair” to try to overcome a history of unfairness.

    Foul! Blatant misrepresentation.

    Making a special effort to avoid gender bias != making a special effort to create gender bias that you approve of.

    We want a level playing field, not one handicapped in favor of those discriminated against in the past.

  25. #25 Euan
    September 20, 2007

    I would have written Beatrix Potter. She was one of the first to suggest that lichens were a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae but she was ignored as a scientist because of her gender.

  26. #26 andy
    September 20, 2007

    I’d probably have put Jocelyn Bell Burnell, possibly with a rant about biases in the awarding of Nobel prizes.

  27. #27 John Pieret
    September 20, 2007

    You must have interesting parties if you use women as attractive centerpieces for the family dinner table.

    I also came up with Barbara McClintock but I live near Cold Spring Harbor.

  28. #28 MartinM
    September 20, 2007

    Lise Meitner is the first name that springs to mind.

  29. #29 Fred Mim
    September 20, 2007

    Vera Rubin, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Lisa Randall,
    Melissa Franklin, Jill Tarter, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, Henrietta Leavitt.

  30. #30 melior
    September 20, 2007

    Let’s see, right off the top of my head there’s Grrl Scientist, and Bitch, PhD and of course the one who ripped Dembski a new one recently, ERV.

  31. #31 Tatarize
    September 20, 2007

    I personally think Mary Leakey was fantastic. I also think her husband was a coat-riding troll.

    There is a significant lack of female bloggers. Of the science blogs I commonly read only 2/5 are written by women (ERV, Aetiology). Although to be fair I am assuming (perhaps wrongly, that Afarensis and Angry Toxicologist are male).

    I’m not counting Intersection (though half-female team is a guilty pleasure and not very sciencey). Or Scientia Natura, Pandagon, Skepchick, Possummomma, for being more atheism/skepticism blogs.

    What conclusion were we suppose to draw. I forgot.

  32. #32 Kristen Stubbs
    September 20, 2007

    “Consider how many graduate students are women compared to how few faculty members are women.”

    When I first read this, the use of the term “many” seemed a little odd to me. In my department, about 16% of the PhD students are women compared to 6% of the faculty. While 16% > 6%, neither of those ratios are particularly large.

  33. #33 Joshua Zelinsky
    September 20, 2007

    Wow, that students left question 15 blank is just incredibly disturbing. I’m curious as to what the male/female ratio was of the students who left question 15 blank and how this compares to the class male/female ratio.

  34. #34 Tatarize
    September 20, 2007

    Silence of the homogametic sex? Are you kidding? I don’t know where you live but these damned roosters won’t shut the hell up!

  35. #35 windy
    September 20, 2007

    Tomoko Ohta. Deborah Charlesworth. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. Kristen Hawkes. Virpi Lummaa.

    (Are we spoiling PZ’s students with this thread?)

  36. #36 Jared
    September 20, 2007

    I would have went with Marie Curie or Ada Lovelace. I find this topic interesting since I’d never heard of Rosalind Franklin until she was mentioned here.

  37. #37 PoxyHowzes
    September 20, 2007

    WRT #15 and especially #24, I am reminded of the rather simple step taken by the NFL when the dearth of African-American head coaches became became politically uncomfortable. An edict went out from the league that at least one African-American candidate had to be interviewed for any head-coach opening. Nothing more, just interview them! As a result, two African-American head coaches faced each other last superbowl, if I’ve got my sports statistics right.

    So, PZ, I suggest that you agitate to get a version of your test adopted each time there’s an opening for a scientist: Questions #14 and #15 are asked of each potential interviewer, except that #15 becomes “name at least one female scientist who you think should be interviewed for this opening,” and there’s a 15-second time limit for the answer.

    Anyone, male or female, who fails to name an eligible female candidate within the alotted time is forthwith granted the title “Emeritus,” is dismissed from the selection committee, and is docked sufficient pay to cover the tuition of a fresh(wo)man science student.

  38. #38 Beth
    September 20, 2007

    I helped found a Women in Science House on my campus last year and we talked about this all the time. Even now, there is a problem with getting more women into higher positions especially in physics and engineering. Add into that the fact that when women bloggers get hate emails it tends to be more violent. Man, thats depressing…

    I’m naming my first daughter Rosalind after Franklin, there is no talking me out now.

  39. #39 Sarah Messer
    September 20, 2007

    Someone asked for statistics. I did a talk about a year ago, and before I started the research, I thought the numbers weren’t very tight. Now I know better:

    see the Social Psychology Network for general background on prejudices of all stripes, and

    #40 Bachalon
    September 20, 2007

    Janna Levin!

  40. #41 Sea Creature
    September 20, 2007

    What about Tsuneko Okazaki? She & her husband found the Okazaki fragments together (as far as I know) but in classes I’ve heard instructers refer to Okazaki as “he” only.

  41. #42 Becca
    September 20, 2007

    I once thought it’d be a fun ‘experiment’ to ask people to name a female scientist other than Marie Curie. I got too depressed to keep going with it.
    I figured as long as we’re listing names to show how hip we are I’d put in Maria Mitchell. I used to read a series of about the childhoods of famous people and she was ‘the other’ female scientist. I loved that series (my Dad checked out from the library for me every female in the series, and most of the scientists. god bless him.)
    And we oughtn’t to forget IRENE Curie.

    I personally could also come up with Barbara Mcclintock, Rosalind Franklin, Linda Buck, Christiane Nusslein-Volhard (though I wouldn’t have been able to spell her name, so I might not have written that down on an exam). Also, Martha Chase. If I’m honest, I would have probably forgotten Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, though I find her story especially inspiring.
    I can also name lots of female faculty members at my institution, and could even have named some as an undergrad.

    All of you who couldn’t think of multiple women- go read “Nobel Prize Women in Science”, “The Dark Lady of DNA” and “Marie Curie: A Life” (by Eve Curie).

    Oh, and I would have named Nancy Hopkins. I figure if you bother to remember “larry summers” you should remember Nancy Hopkinks.

    Also, can anyone name a non-white female scientist? Double points for one who is also non-asian.
    I actually couldn’t- not even allowing myself to count faculty at my university.
    *gives self F*

  42. #43 Monado
    September 20, 2007

    Anne McLaren, developmental biologist and fellow of the Royal Society since the 1970s. She died last month.

    Margaret Mead, anthropologist and author.

  43. #44 Onkel Bob
    September 20, 2007

    Liz Lacey (SKI) wrote the textbook on on using mouse models. Kathryn Andersen is also at SKI, chairperson of the developmental biology department, academic of the sciences. Of course there’s always someone like Katherine Hajjar who is the chair of Cell and Dev Bio at Cornell, but her husband is the Dean so there are questions whether she’s a scientist.
    I would name my wife, but that’s not right… (you can guess where I hail from, but it would be wrong, I met her when she was on “the Farm.”)
    Brigit Hogan is another academic of the sciences that pops to mind.
    Shame that biologists don’t know Franklin.

  44. #45 Monado
    September 20, 2007

    And my step daughter, Elizabeth A. Nelson, who has already matched the output of the Intelligent Design movement before finishing her Ph.D. (including one paper given in high school to an astronomy convention).

  45. #46 joshua
    September 20, 2007

    Emmy Nother…she was so important the Einstein wrote her obit in the ny times.

  46. #47 alison
    September 20, 2007

    Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, pioneer computer scientist. I had the great pleasure of hearing her speak about the early days of computing.

  47. #48 katie
    September 20, 2007

    At our school we have three autoclaves in the genetics unit. Two have been named with little tags: “Watson” and “Crick”.

    Is it any surprise some of us female grad students are quietly planning to name the third one “Franklin”?

  48. #49 Barn Owl
    September 20, 2007

    My dad would disown me if I failed to mention Dame Honor Fell; I remember him telling me about Fell, and about Rosalind Franklin, when I was in high school.

    But as a mouse geneticist and developmental biologist, I’d also list Liane Russell, Mary Lyon, Hilde Mangold, and Rita Levi-Montalcini. I’m sorry to hear that Anne McLaren died.

    i don’t think there’s much emphasis on, or time devoted to, reading “classic” papers in biology from the late 19th or early 20th centuries these days, in either undergraduate or graduate education. The contributions of both female and male scientists are ignored as a consequence.

    Hey, maybe everybody’s blogging instead! *lightbulb click*

  49. #50 Iain Coleman
    September 20, 2007

    How about Hedy Lamarr?

  50. #51 sailor
    September 20, 2007

    “But you added to that problem, by leaving Rosalind Franklin off your course notes when pretending Watson and Crick did the DNA work.”

    I agree that PZ added to the problem by leaving her off, but I disagree with your statement “pretending Watson and Crick did the DNA work.” Watson and Crick did discover the double helix, but they could not have done it without her work. The reason she did not get a Nobel prize, if my memory is correct, is not that she was a woman, but that she was dead by the time they were handing them out for that work. However, her being a woman certainly meant she did get at that time a lot less credit than she deserved. If PZ would add her into his course he could begin to correct that now…

  51. #52 Sam Paris
    September 20, 2007

    Maria Goeppert-Mayer, and her “magic numbers” (of nucleons), the other woman to win a Nobel prize in physics, of course.

  52. #53 katie
    September 20, 2007

    And now for something even more depressing… check out how many female Nobel laureates there are: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_Nobel_Prize_laureates.

    There actually have been none for Chemistry and Physics for the last 20 years…

  53. #54 Ichthyic
    September 20, 2007

    Is it any surprise some of us female grad students are quietly planning to name the third one “Franklin”?

    yes, but only the “quietly” part.

    would it really create waves for you just by naming an autoclave?

  54. #55 Ribozyme
    September 20, 2007

    Yep, Hypatia of Alexandria comes to mind as the most ancient example (3rd century, A.D.) although she ended up being tortured and slaughtered by Christians. Another good example was Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz, a Mexican, a poet and something of a polymath (the wikipedia article doesn’t make her justice) in the 17th century. She also ran into trouble with the Church and was forced to stop writing. More recently, Lise Meitner, the co-discoverer of nuclear fission with Otto Hahn. In contrast with him, she didn’t receive the Nobel prize for that. Maybe being a woman and a Jew was too much for the Nobel commitee in 1944.

  55. #56 Monado
    September 20, 2007

    PoxyHowses, it would be better to give at least a minute or two for the potential interviewer to think of a really good candidate instead of the first name that comes to mind.

    As I recall, Beatrix Potter did botany illustrations for her father’s research, so she should have gotten some credit.

    Darn, who had to have their paper read for them because women didn’t speak at meetings?

    Caroline Lucretia Herschel (1750-1848), who I think was the real discoverer of Uranus and is acknowledged as an astronomer assisting her brother William.

    Lady Mary Wortley Montagu – not offically a scientist but the person who observed innoculation against smallpox in the Turkey, brought back samples I believe, and was responsible for a spate of innoculations in the 1700s. Smallpox killed 30 – 40% of those who caught it. The practice of using a weak strain of smallpox was never widespread in England because it was still dangerous, killing up to 10%. However, William Jenner was innoculated as a child and developed the better way of using a related virus, cowpox, which prevented smallpox. (That’s why milkmaids were known for their beauty – they weren’t covered with smallpox scars.)

  56. #57 PZ Myers
    September 20, 2007

    You are aware that a one line summary of a week worth of lectures does not constitute the whole of what I’m going to say, right? That’s 3 hours of talking. Rosalind Franklin will be prominently mentioned, don’t worry.

  57. #58 Reason
    September 20, 2007

    As a young female scientist, I know that not everyone suffers from this form of blindness. Fellow women are often very much aware of the contributions of their own gender (I know this to be true for science and medicine–I can only speculate about other fields). It is clear that the contributions of women are routinely neglected, but it is important to continue that sentence with the following modifer: “mainly, by men” (of course, not all men).

    Stating (and lamenting) that the contributions of women scientists are neglected, period, appears to require taking the viewpoint that those whose opinions and attentions are most important are male.

  58. #59 Sailor
    September 20, 2007

    “That’s 3 hours of talking. Rosalind Franklin will be prominently mentioned, don’t worry.”

    Delighted to hear it PZ, I will happily go off now and eat some humble pie…

  59. #60 Keith Harwood
    September 20, 2007

    IIRC the first woman in Asimov’s Biographical Dictionary of Science is Hypatia, a librarian of Alexandria just before the library was burnt down by the Christians. (As distinct from when it was burned down by the Romans.)

    First woman mathematician I can recall is Julia? Bernoulli, sister and cousin to the Bernoulli brothers. Not long after was the woman (whose name I forget, but should be easy to find on Google) who translated Newton’s Principia into French and the translation was used for the next couple of centuries.

    First woman astronomer I can recall is Caroline Hershel, sister to William. Later ones include Celia Payne, Priscilla Bok, Er um… (Sorry if I’m getting the spelling wrong, these are people from my distant past.) Oh yes, Ann Savage, whom I have actually met.

    Marie Curie was a chemist, her daughter was a physicist and they were the first mother-daughter pair to get Nobel Prizes.

    Then there’s Dorothy Hodgkin, Rosemary Franklin (who should have got a Nobel, but didn’t; swizz) and here my memory gives out. I’m sure I know of many more women scientists, but I’m having a `senior moment’.

  60. #61 Jared
    September 20, 2007

    Keith Harwood:

    Not long after was the woman (whose name I forget, but should be easy to find on Google) who translated Newton’s Principia into French and the translation was used for the next couple of centuries.

    I googled: Emilie du Châtelet.

  61. #62 Ian B Gibson
    September 20, 2007

    “Yes, male moths are pretty quiet, aren’t they?”

    Male birds, too.

    Erm, only extinct ones.

  62. #63 Mary Aloyse Firestone
    September 20, 2007

    Émilie du Châtelet (1706-1749), Mathematician. A recent book about Emilie and her partner: Passionate Minds by David Bodanis, 2006. Several sites on the web including Wikipedia. A crater on Venus was named for her. Died of complications of childbirth days after delivering her most important work to her publisher.

  63. #64 James Cook
    September 20, 2007

    PZ, I sincerely hope you would have accepted Emmy Noether for #15.

    (Yes, mathematicians do count as scientists.)

  64. #65 Ichthyic
    September 20, 2007

    “Yes, male moths are pretty quiet, aren’t they?”

    they might be quiet, but they sure hear well enough:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061218122629.htm

  65. #66 MAJeff
    September 20, 2007

    I’d want to answer my organic chemsitry professor at Iowa State. Can’t for the life of me remember her name, but she was so damned entertaining and knowledgeable that going to Org was fun!

    When I was majoring in chemical engineering, the department was proud of itself because it had the highest concentration of women of any of the engineering departments at around 10%.

    Now, as I’m teaching sociology (Sex and Gender, alongside Race and Ethnicity, this semester) I have young women majoring in bio, pre-med, engineering, you name it. I don’t know if that much has changed in the past 15 or so years (I hope so), but don’t try to tell these young women that they don’t have what it takes to succeed in the sciences.

    What’s even better, though, is that these young women are far more aware of the social issues involved with their entry into these fields than the young men accompanying them (unless they’re taking my class..shameless self-plug) but they’re able to articulate what’s going on in both fields. The unfortunate thing is that the class is about 80% female (because, of course, gender only refers to women–we males apparently don’t have one).

    Reminds me also of a chat I had on a flight last spring. I was talking with a woman who does research at one of the Harvard institutes (who can remember which one). She was telling me about her own research, and how it was challenging some paradigms (I could keep up, but barely), but she was also telling me about the not-so-subtle things she had to put up with. Things like male colleagues commenting on the changes in the style of her dress from year to year. Things like going to conferences and having researchers shocked to find out that the person presenting the paper they were so impressed with was a woman.

    Hope and frustration simultaneously.

  66. #67 Bill Dauphin
    September 20, 2007

    I would have probably gone with Annie Cannon.

    That was my first thought, along with Henrietta Leavitt and Jodie Fos… er, I mean Jill Tarter.

    I guess I was in an astronomical frame of mind.

    But though Marie Curie being the most common answer is admittedly a problem in the way PZ suggests, it’s surely an even bigger problem that “a bunch” of students couldn’t think even of that stereotypical answer.

    PS: I’ve never heard anyone suggest before that Caroline Herschel was the true discoverer of Uranus, but she did indisputably discover numerous comets, entirely on her own.

  67. #68 James Cook
    September 20, 2007

    I’m not sure why my link didn’t work; let’s try again.

  68. #69 Carlie
    September 20, 2007

    Don’t forget the scientist who changed genders. He had people commenting after the switch how much better his research was than his “sister’s”.

  69. #70 Paul Schofield
    September 20, 2007

    I can only speculate about other fields

    Well, I have to say that physics has an annoying lack of women in the history of the subject. Going into my third year I can count the number of women mentioned as prominent figures on my thumbs. Strange seeing as we have had three very memorable female lecturers (all research physicists, one a senior lecturer in the department who is heavily involved in outreach) for no fewer than five different modules over the last two years. I would gladly list at least one of them among any list of women scientists.

    Janna Levin needs some love as well. Read her book when I was working on university applications. Happened to be in Cambridge at the time and sought out one of the parks she mentioned to do some serious reading under a tree. Most definitely a memorable book.

  70. #71 Skeptic8
    September 20, 2007

    What if I mentioned Zo Bell instead of Curie?
    Anyone witness her analyses of hydrocarbons in recent sediments and depths? The name is just right to make the grader hesitate and look up a roster of rock bands.
    If you don’t like it can I enter Dr. Susan Block for fun?

  71. #72 Amanda
    September 20, 2007

    I would try to discourage your students from embracing identities they have no control over (race/gender/sexual orientation, etc.) and instead talk to them as people. It’s pretty much impossible to draw attention to the scarcity of female scientists without simultaneously reinforcing silly ideas about gender. In my experience, the less people worry about their own race/gender the better. Its also completely obvious when a professor suddenly switches into apologetic liberal white male mode and so its usually less than convincing anyway.

  72. #73 AlanWCan
    September 20, 2007

    Rosalind Franklin would be top of the list, but how about Mary Anning if you want to get the righteous fury going? Kathleen Drew-Baker discovered the secret of the nori life cycle in the 30s. Or for someone more contemporary, you can’t get better than Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard. Mind you, they’re all white women . I read an interesting article a while back in Nature about Japanese biophysicist Michiko Go. Now, how about a list of left-handed scientists?

  73. #74 Jon Hendry
    September 20, 2007

    I just installed the 2008 Britannica software, so I brought up their ‘Great Minds’ feature. It shows a list of scientific fields. A click on each of them brings up a list of scientists from that field. Clicking on a scientist brings up the intro to their bio and an image if one is available.

    They’re mostly men, but there are a few women. I imagine it depends on the field.

    It would be nice if, in addition to the by-field groupings, there were groupings by gender or race or ethnicity. If those were available, some would surely be pretty empty, and that would probably compel the company to add more people to fill things out.

  74. #75 bug_girl
    September 20, 2007

    I’d encourage any of you (especially physicists, biologists, and chemists!) who are currently employed to sign up as an e-mentor at Mentornet.net

    This is a national program to increase diversity in science,
    and I always have a shortage of mentors in those fields.
    It’s easy, only about a half-hour (max!) every 2 weeks.

    Bug, apparently NOT a “great” female blogger. Ahem.

    (granted, I do have rather a narrow field of scope and readership. But still–OW!)

  75. #76 JamesR
    September 20, 2007

    In question to this why not post all the women bloggers addy’s. Simple to get. And simple to promote.

  76. #77 bug_girl
    September 20, 2007

    I think Zuska is making the same point that a bunch of women in entomology have been making for >25 years:

    If you are organizing a conference, and you realize that your conference speakers, every single one, is a white dude, it is a good time to examine whether you have missed someone.

    You can, BTW, get a really wonderful series of posters on women in health from the NIH

    http://science.education.nih.gov/women/scientists/index.html

  77. #78 bug_girl
    September 20, 2007

    oops-should be
    http://science.education.nih.gov/women/index.html

    clearly past my bedtime 🙂

  78. #79 MAJeff
    September 20, 2007

    I would try to discourage your students from embracing identities they have no control over (race/gender/sexual orientation, etc.) and instead talk to them as people.

    Spoken like a privileged, straight white person.

    Fuck that. I’m proud of being gay. I’m proud of being part of a collectivity that has not only survived but thrived and created new cultural values, that developed institutions of care when the state told us to die.

  79. #80 sil-chan
    September 20, 2007

    Have NONE of them heard of Marie Curie?!? Yeesh! It doesn’t specify biology:-p

    By the way. My kitten is named Marie Curie>.>

    I also have a cat named Schrodinger, and two finches named Darwin and Hawkins. I have a theme going here^.^

  80. #81 thalarctos
    September 20, 2007

    If you are organizing a conference, and you realize that your conference speakers, every single one, is a white dude, it is a good time to examine whether you have missed someone.

    not just in entomology, bug_girl–an embryologist I know (and PZ, you know her too, but I won’t mention names, since I didn’t yet ask first before telling her anecdote) tells the story of more than one conference she’s organized, and that male colleagues only propose male speakers for.

    when this happens, she sends their suggestions back and asks them to include some suggestions for female speakers as well.

    invariably, the following kabuki plays out:

    Dr. Embryologist: Please include some women speakers as well.

    Male Colleague: I can’t think of anyone to include; there isn’t anyone.

    Dr. Embryologist: How about Dr. A?

    Male Colleague: Oh, yeah, she’s really good, ok.

    Dr. Embryologist: And how about Dr. B?

    Male Colleague: Oh, yeah, she’s good, too.

    Dr. Embryologist: And how about Dr. C?

    So apparently it isn’t just students who have trouble coming up with names of female scientists.

  81. #82 Azkyroth
    September 21, 2007

    Heh. The #1 most common answer to that question: Marie Curie. Nothing against her, but that’s another sign that we have a problem: that most people think of just one name.

    I’m sure it doesn’t help that a lot of scientists have been German, French, etc. I, for instance, would have named “Emilie de… Emilie de Bretu… Emilie de Bretiu…BLOODY HELL. The French woman who translated Newton. <.<"

  82. #83 tigerhawkvok
    September 21, 2007

    While I agree there is a lack of women in the history of sciences (and a distressing lack of them in the physics and astrophysics majors, let me assure you), there is never a circumstance where you can use preferential selection to write a past wrong.

    After all, select for someone based on sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, what have you … and you’ve just rejected someone else based on the same criteria.

    Past misdeeds may be horrible,b ut it means that you should fix it by moving to a straight meritocracy, not perpetuating selection criteria.

  83. #84 Azkyroth
    September 21, 2007

    It’s also worth noting that things have gotten a lot better–women are no longer legally forbidden from receiving an education or working outside the home, nor legally obliged to be obedient to their husbands, at least in the Western world. Perhaps more important, public opinion has shifted in such a way that while de facto discrimination is still alive and well, its practitioners are now frequently reluctant to admit to it, and even go to great lengths to hide it.

  84. #85 Azkyroth
    September 21, 2007

    Oh. Chatelet, with the weird French letters. *wonders why the last source that reminded me of her used Breteuil or something like it* x.x

    Hmm. Mary Leakey? Or do I misremember again? x.x

  85. #86 Azkyroth
    September 21, 2007
    I would try to discourage your students from embracing identities they have no control over (race/gender/sexual orientation, etc.) and instead talk to them as people.

    Spoken like a privileged, straight white person.

    Fuck that. I’m proud of being gay. I’m proud of being part of a collectivity that has not only survived but thrived and created new cultural values, that developed institutions of care when the state told us to die.

    I think there’s a legitimate argument against over-emphasizing defining oneself by one’s demographic memberships rather than one’s individual personality, abilities, and preferences. This kind of knee-jerk reaction isn’t really applicable to that.

    That said, the actions you list are something to be proud of. Do you think, however, that the same people, if the only thing different was their sexually preferred gender, wouldn’t have done the same? I’m honestly curious.

  86. #87 Kseniya
    September 21, 2007

    I admit that Marie Curie was the first name to pop into my head.

    The second was Tara C. Smith.

    The third was Jane Goodall.

    The fourth was Pelageya Shajn.

    Yeah, I know. Weird.

    I didn’t know that about Beatrix Potter. That’s awesome.

  87. #88 Amanda
    September 21, 2007

    MAJeff,

    So, do you enjoy receiving condescending self-esteem cheerleading from heterosexuals? Didn’t think so. Maybe political activism is your thing, but serious women scientists want to talk about science, not diversity. I am complaining about valuable class time (I am paying for those 50 minutes!) being taken up by boilerplate.

  88. #89 Ed S
    September 21, 2007

    A survey of women in science should include Inge Lehmann, the Danish discoverer of the inner solid core of the earth. After noticing anomalies in seismic waveforms from a 1929 earthquake that took place in New Zealand, Lehmann sought to explain the observations. She found that all the seismic waveforms could be explained by the existence of a solid inner core surrounded by the larger molten core. She spent about six years in carefully verifying her hypothesis and published her findings in 1936 in the paper entitled, “P”, (the symbol for primary seismic wave). In one of science’s most rapid transitions in thinking, within just a few years her theory was widely accepted by the seismology and earth science community. http://www.amnh.org/education/resources/rfl/web/essaybooks/earth/p_lehmann.html

  89. #90 G Felis
    September 21, 2007

    While we’re adding to list of women scientists who deserve some props… Jocelyn Bell, who discovered the pulsar (as a grad student) in 1967, incidentally the year of my birth. And the author of my current favorite reading matter, Olivia Judson, a.k.a. “Dr. Tatiana.”

  90. #91 PoxyHowzes
    September 21, 2007

    Shirley Ann Jackson (PhD) has been President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for some years now. She is, in that simply horrendous “Human Resources” phrase, a “twofer”: An African-American woman.

  91. #92 Anton Mates
    September 21, 2007

    How about Hedy Lamarr?

    Oh hell yes. The hottest telecommunications engineer who ever skinny-dipped.

    I’d probably put Emmy Noether first, just because her work was so important in math and physics, which according to our culture are where the Smart People go.

  92. #93 PoxyHowzes
    September 21, 2007

    Monado @ #52: Perhaps you miss my NFL point in the first part of comment #36. If potential job interviewers knew that they would be required to come up “instantly” with the name of at least one qualified female candidate (a potential colleague, maybe a future occupant of the office next door), those guys (M or F) would make damn sure that they knew and were always up on the curricula vitae of women in their field. That in itself would be an advancement, IMO. If they couldn’t be bothered to know and keep up on, then proceed to the latter part of my post.

  93. #94 usagi
    September 21, 2007

    crossposted at Zuska’s
    It’s the close of orientation week at my school (Registrar–I do two sessions with PHDs and one with the Master’s students). Having discovered Powerpoint, I was bound & determined to use it, hopefully to good effect.

    When I got to the graduation slide, I looked for some clip art. The school’s about 65/35 female/male, so I needed, at minimum, an image with a male and a female. Nothing in the simple search looked good. Checked the MS clip art library. Found a nice pair of 50s style cake toppers in caps & gowns, one male, one female. Fortunately, they didn’t look right either (I say fortunately because I’d been playing with the position for a while then realized they were both rather pale–not a great choice for classes with 25% non-Caucasian enrollment). Finally found a cartoony group of five in caps and gowns with a nice ethnic and gender mix, but when I positioned the logo the way I wanted (yeah, I’m picky about my layout–sue me), I had four figures showing: 3 male, 1 female. Solution: do a quick gender reassignment by copying a ponytail from one as a separate graphic to drop in over one of the identically drawn male figures. The point of all this? It’s really not all that tough to be inclusive, if you take a moment and consider your audience.

    Did it take me longer than grabbing the first thing I saw? Sure. Did anyone notice? Probably not. But someone would have if I hadn’t paid attention, and that would not have reflected well on my office (and the school), especially in a first contact like orientation.

    A mistake like this from The Scientist (and it was a mistake) is foolish, unnecessary, and, above all, lazy.

  94. #95 PoxyHowzes
    September 21, 2007

    Azkyroth @82: I live near a city that suffers mightily from the “better” syndrome: Things are always always (say the powers-that-be) getting “better.” Yet, strangely, things never never, in that city, seem to get “good!”

    I honestly thought you intended your post to be sarcastic when I first read it. If it is, then I congratulate you on your expertise in the form. If not, I encourage you in the future to adopt as your standard “what should be,” rather than “what has been.”

  95. #96 forsen
    September 21, 2007

    I’m rather ashamed to admit that the only ones that came to my mind was Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall and… yes, Marie Curie.

  96. #97 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 21, 2007

    As a swede I would add Sofia Kovalevskaya, of course. Emmy Noether is certainly more important for physics, but Kovalevskaya’s result on partial differential equations (existence and uniqueness of solutions) is important, accessible and AFAIU similar to modern methods on general maps.

    (Actually, when I checked the spelling, I note that Kovalevskaya worked in physics too. She studied a model of tops in gravity, including an analysis of the dynamics of Saturn’s rings. Which btw earned her a prize.)

    Annie Cannon … Jocelyn Bell

    I know that the first generations of women in universities had it hard, but the treatment in astronomy looks on the face of it worse than most. Those two among others deserved a better fate.

  97. #98 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 21, 2007

    As a swede I would add Sofia Kovalevskaya, of course. Emmy Noether is certainly more important for physics, but Kovalevskaya’s result on partial differential equations (existence and uniqueness of solutions) is important, accessible and AFAIU similar to modern methods on general maps.

    (Actually, when I checked the spelling, I note that Kovalevskaya worked in physics too. She studied a model of tops in gravity, including an analysis of the dynamics of Saturn’s rings. Which btw earned her a prize.)

    Annie Cannon … Jocelyn Bell

    I know that the first generations of women in universities had it hard, but the treatment in astronomy looks on the face of it worse than most. Those two among others deserved a better fate.

  98. #99 Silmarillion
    September 21, 2007

    Has Mme Lavoisier been mentioned yet?

  99. #100 madjon
    September 21, 2007

    I am surprised no one has mentioned Carolyn Porco. The Cassini images are stunning.

  100. #101 thalarctos
    September 21, 2007

    but serious women scientists want to talk about science, not diversity.

    Most serious women scientists I know talk about both.

  101. #102 bug_girl
    September 21, 2007

    tigerhawkvok said:
    “Past misdeeds may be horrible,b utit means that you should fix it by moving to a straight meritocracy, not perpetuating selection criteria.”

    Congrats on repeating the party line. That’s not what I, or several of the other posters, have said here.

    Every goddamn award or job I have EVER gotten, someone said that it was “given” to me because I am a woman. (And, amazingly, I haven’t smacked anyone yet.)

    The fact that I’ve published in Science or other major journals…conveniently ignored. That I have held elected offices of one sort or another in my professional society for >15 yrs…that doesn’t count either apparently.

    Asking for reevaluation of decisions that obviously have a potential for bias isn’t a preference system. you might want to re-read thalactos and other’s posts for what they actually said.

  102. #103 windy
    September 21, 2007

    (Repost since my comment hasn’t turned up in a day; damn our Seed-y overlords)

    Some recent classics that haven’t been mentioned yet: Tomoko Ohta, Deborah Charlesworth, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Kristen Hawkes

    and some currently very hot (hot in science, that is) Finns: Virpi Lummaa, Lotta Sundström, Leena Palotie, Hanna Kokko

    Hey, are we spoiling PZ’s students with all this name-dropping? The next time he has this question on a quiz, I’d be surprised if none of the names from this thread turn up. But if they remember how to spell ‘Virpi Lummaa’, give them the gold star…

  103. #104 Thony C.
    September 21, 2007

    Sophia Brahe (Tycho’s wife).

    Sophia was Tycho’s sister and not his wife!

  104. #105 Doug
    September 21, 2007

    Let’s see, I can think of

    Madam Curie and her husband (can’t remember his name)
    Lisa Meitner whose work Otto Hahn got credit for
    Marie-Anne Pierette Paulze
    And plenty of women in my family.
    (Disclosure – I had to search for the names, but I would have to do that for many of the D.W. men, and I know of their contributions)

    Honestly, I found Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy and PZ’s Pharyngula because of the science, but what brings me back is the nature of the discussions. Pharyngula, aside the cephelopod fixation, stirs the pot. And PZ is Asimovianly prolific (and probably sleep deprived).

    I certainly want to remove all barriers for all ilks of scientist. But I don’t have an expectation of the final outcome and I don’t think it should or will end up being demographically congruent with the population. (I would not be a bit emotionally harmed by the idea of a sudden takeover of black women scientist, nor of a majority of bushy eyebrowed old white men – just give me good science).

  105. #106 Dan S.
    September 21, 2007

    Now, If Sophia and Tycho were vacationing in the south of France . . . (sorry, was reading that Haidt interview . . .

  106. #107 MAJeff
    September 21, 2007

    Amanda, you weren’t complaining about class time being taken up. You specifically said that people should be encouraged to avoid identifying by certain group memberships. And you gave no reason for it…that came only in response to me. If you’re going to complain about class time being taken up by issues you don’t think should be in the classroom, then complain about that. But it ain’t what you did.

    Azkyroth, they probably wouldn’t have had to do those things because the state would have been their with resources (Legionnaire’s outbreak just prior to the initial reports of AIDS, anyone?), the society wouldn’t have said they deserve it and isolated them. We had to do it because we were forced into a position of isolation by a society that was just as happy to see us dead.

  107. #108 Kseniya
    September 21, 2007

    Is it true that Tycho Brahe had a dwarf companion named Jeb?

    Speaking of Hedy Lamarr, there’s an exhibit at the Hammond Castle in Gloucester, MA, with some info on the radio guidance system ideas of Lamar and Hammond. I don’t know if they ever worked together, but there was some technological overlap. I’d heard of Lamar (by way of Blazing Saddles) but had no idea she was a… a science geek. 🙂

    (Hammond Castle is an interesting place, especially on Halloween, heh)

    Lamarr was Austrian, but a staunch anti-Nazi. Apparently, though, her invention was not appreciated in its time:

    Frequency-hopped spread spectrum invention.

    This tidbit seems particularly pertinent to the discussion here: “Lamarr wanted to join the National Inventors Council but she was told that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell War Bonds.”

    But on the other hand: “In 2003, the Boeing corporation ran a series of recruitment ads featuring Hedy Lamarr as a woman of science. No reference to her film career was made in the ads.”

  108. #109 TheBowerbird
    September 21, 2007

    I hate to break it to Zuska, but she’s not exactly helping. Her blog is rarely informative. There are other, much better female bloggers on scienceblogs, but really, who really cares what the sex of the writer is? It’s all about the content. There are as many high profile female bloggers in the political sphere as male ones, and it’s precisely because they put out good stuff. Maybe Zuska has traffic envy?

  109. #110 Shawn Wilkinson
    September 21, 2007

    I think pedagogy downplays the historical relevance of women in science to the respective fields. What I mean is, introductory classes cover only the “high points” of said field of science with the history relegated to marginal notations or end-chapter sections of textbooks. Even then, the historical high points are covered. Biology texts mention Darwin and Wallace, Crick and Watson (only good ones mention Maurice Wilkins in that group, sadly), and Mendel. The rest of the semester is concentrated on cell structure, metabolic cycles, mitosis/meiosis, phyla, cladistics, etc. You’re lucky if historical tidbits are included on who developed the clade (Willi Hennig) or who discovered each function of each part of the cell.

    With that being said, women have always been involved with the scientific process and are found by tracing through history. The amateur anthropologist within me thinks that the mythologies that have women in charge of certain aspects of technology are long-lost relics of an identity to whom developed said technology. But even though that is naive, there are examples of real women dating back into the BCE and through the centuries.

    Si Ling-Chi (c. 2600BCE) was the first empress of China who developed silk cultivation in China. Mary the Jewess (3rd century CE) was an alchemist who developed many distillation techniques which chemists still use today. Women did attend the University of Bologna during the Middle Ages, and some were chairs of the departments (Dorotea Bucca was one during the 1400s). Marie Cunitz (1610-1664) simplified Kepler’s logarithms, and her works influenced scholars during the 17th and 18th century.

    The list continues. Though I agree history has lost many names of influential women and does an injustice to the female sex, it is not like they played no role at all. There were many influential women, even during the Medieval Era when a woman was defined by her male figures role. It is only a matter of inquiry to find out who found what of science and their influence on history.

  110. #111 Carolyn
    September 21, 2007

    The percentage of women students in computer science and engineering is _down_ over the past 10-20 years. The percentage of women goes down from low to pathetic from undergrad, to grad, to faculty. I don’t like this. As a student who worked for most of a decade before coming back to grad school, I notice a difference in the student body. There must be something about the field which makes it unwelcoming to women.

    I don’t like being the only woman in the room, and it happens a lot (and happened a lot when I was in industry, but that’s another story). The highest female/male ratio in my classes is about 4/15 (total 19), usually it’s just me or two of us in a class. If I didn’t really have a passion for this field over others, I’d go into something with a more balanced gender ratio, thereby contributing to the problem.

  111. #112 Caledonian
    September 21, 2007

    There must be something about the field which makes it unwelcoming to women.

    Because no other explanations are possible.

  112. #114 DouglasG
    September 21, 2007

    Hypatia of Alexandria is an excellent example for one reason why there was a long absence of female scientists. If you were smart at science in the middle ages, there was a good chance you would be persecuted as a witch as she was.

    She turned me into a newt — I got better.

  113. #115 Madam Pomfrey
    September 21, 2007

    “The culture of computer science has been built around male preferences,” Fisher said, pointing out how introductory courses in computer science hone in on very technical aspects of the field.”

    What bogus BS. Since when are “technical aspects of the field” male as opposed to female preferences? This does nothing but reinforce stereotypes and carries the odor of so-called “postmodern” nonsense. We female scientists get into these fields because we *like* doing technical work.

  114. #116 MAJeff
    September 21, 2007

    This does nothing but reinforce stereotypes and carries the odor of so-called “postmodern” nonsense. We female scientists get into these fields because we *like* doing technical work.

    I’d say it has more to do with gender essentialism than anything else. But keep beating that pomo horse.

  115. I would offer Hypatia of Alexandria as both an example of a woman in science and for discussing why, historically there haven’t been many (Hypatia was skinned alive by a Christian mob in a church).

    However, I agree the woman who named themselves is worthy of not and provides hope for the future.

  116. #118 Fragano Ledgister
    September 21, 2007

    I have an easy answer on the woman scientist question: Vasso Episkopou (who teaches and researches in London).

  117. #119 Carolyn
    September 21, 2007

    Because no other explanations are possible.

    OK, then, I as a woman, have felt unwelcome in the field because of my gender. Not always, but there seems to be some assumption that people good at computers being stereotypical computer geeks, and some selection based on that.

    Tech is also a very white field at the top, despite there being a lot more variety of colours of faces at lower levels. I guess non-whites just don’t really have the drive either? Give me a break.

    It’s not as if women have become less interested in computers or applied technology since the eighties, or less capable since then.

  118. #120 Jennifurret
    September 21, 2007

    The first to pop into my head was Lynn Margulis, but I’m also a big fan of Rosalind Franklin.

    And of course, myself! Go women scientists <3

  119. #121 thalarctos
    September 21, 2007

    Ed Lazowska of the University of Washington computer science department wrote a very good editorial on the topic in 2002 for Inroads (ACM SIGCSE):

    Pale and Male: 19th Century Design in a 21st Century World

    I’ve been very fortunate to have been associated with a department that takes inclusiveness seriously, and works very actively to attain it. From other women scientists, I hear many horror stories, and it’s clear that there’s still a lot of work to do.

  120. #122 quarkable
    September 21, 2007

    Noether was not only a mathematician, but her self-titled theorem is (to me) one of the most beautiful in physics: for every symmetry, there exists a conservation law. Starting out as a woman in physics, I found her very inspiring!

  121. #123 ctenotrish, FCD
    September 21, 2007

    Hilde Mangold and Barbara McClintock were the first I thought of, then shortly after, Rosalind Franklin came to mind. Oddly enough, I work in a field (Medical Genetics) where I am surrounded by very fine women scientists. It did not occur to me to name one of my colleagues because I was thinking in a historical context. After reading your post, and the many many responses, I had an “oh, duh” moment, realizing that the name that should have entered my mind first was my own, what with the Ph.D. and all. 🙂

  122. #124 patrick
    September 21, 2007

    Question 15 didn’t detain me too long. First into my head were (inevitably) Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace. Then I recalled that Watson and Crick had a silent female partner in their work. Then I read down to the end of the article and thought “oh yeah, and my friends Ruth and Andrea, who have just completed their phds in neuroscience” and the 4 or 5 female lecturers I had as an undergrad…and so on….

    Question 14 is more interesting. Societal obstacles is undoubtedly a large part of the answer. It may be the whole answer. I don’t think we know yet. But it does strike me that women appear to be represented in much greater numbers in some sciences than others. Could be that there are greater obstacles to women wishing to pursue careers in physics than in biology. Could be that women are simply less interested in physics than in biology. That could be cultural. Or it could be the expression of some kind of statistical sexual difference between homo sapiens male and female. Having read up a lot about the subject, I’d say that anyone who claims to know the answer for sure is grinding a political axe of some kind – whether consciously or otherwise.

    I don’t think we know enough about sex differences in terms of mental aptitudes and inclinations (whether they exist, what they are if they do exist, how statistically significant they are if they do exist and we could identify them) to answer this question with certainty.

  123. #125 CortxVortx
    September 21, 2007

    Several names jostled to the fore for #15: Lise Meitner, Rosalind Franklin, Barbara McClintock, and (yes) Marie Curie.

  124. #126 Cynthia
    September 21, 2007

    Kristen Jones, my son’s high school chem AP teacher. She is awesome and has earned many awards. My son learned so much in her class. I heard that she’s retiring from teaching after this year which makes me sad.

  125. #127 SEF
    September 21, 2007

    Then I recalled that Watson and Crick had a silent female partner in their work.

    Not so much silent as ripped off and silenced (by the hierarchy)!

  126. #128 Loren Petrich
    September 21, 2007

    Since this was for a biology class, this made me think of notable female biologists, and the first one I thought of was Lynn Margulis, who revived the endosymbiosis theory of various eukaryotic-cell organelles, like mitochondria, chloroplasts, and flagella (from spirochetes).

    It took a while for endosymbiosis to become generally accepted, but it is now well-estabished for mitochondria and chloroplasts (closest relatives: alpha-proteobacteria and cyanobacteria), However, her proposal of the endosymbiotic origin of eukaryotic flagella has been much less successful.

    Furthermore, the endosymbiosis idea extends to the eukaryotic genome as a whole, which is mostly a composite of genes from the two prokaryotic domains Bacteria and Archaea.

    I knew a few other names, like Emmy Noether and Vera Rubin.

  127. #129 John McKay
    September 21, 2007

    I didn’t have any trouble naming women scientists, but I didn’t think to name the science bloggers or anyone alive (except Jane Goodall). I wonder why most people seemed to think of this first of all as a historical question.

  128. #130 Chris
    September 22, 2007

    Franklin’s the first to pop into my head, then McClintock. In my field (dev bio) there’s certainly a majority of women, at least at the PhD student level-it will be interesting to see if that demographic trend holds when today’s PhD students are shoving us oldsters out of our lab space.

    I teach a sophomore molbio class, and the approach I take is to simply mention the researcher’s names who contributed to important work. I point out the Franklin made an essential contribution to the determination of DNA structure (and also point out that she published several other important papers), a contribution that should have been recognized with sharing the Nobel with W and C., had she lived long enough.

    I’ve also discussed Margulis this term and will be discussing McClintock’s work, among others. Not because I’m trying to find some perfect gender balance, but because these are people who’ve done great work that is germane to the course.

  129. #131 Azkyroth
    September 22, 2007

    Poxy: I share your concerns, and apologize for my ignorance; my failure to become acquainted with a definition of “improvement” by which anything that falls short of satisfaction fails to qualify was presumably an oversight on my part.

    On a more serious note, I think it’s important to acknowledge and explicitly enumerate the gains we (people who care about equal rights and opportunities) have made because 1) it helps underscore the fact that activism works and 2) it helps remind us of where we should be focusing our efforts next. The problem, as you may or may not be intending to point out, comes when “better” is implicitly misused as a synonym for “acceptable”, which, you may have noticed, I didn’t).

    More later.

  130. #132 Barn Owl
    September 22, 2007

    #108-

    Her blog is rarely informative. There are other, much better female bloggers on scienceblogs, but really, who really cares what the sex of the writer is? It’s all about the content.

    I agree, and would add that I don’t read science blogs for the content, or because they’re informative. If I want informative content, I subscribe to feeds or notices from journals in my research areas, or use ScienceDaily or BBC/Reuters Science for topics outside my field. Science blogs definitely can be entertaining, enjoyable to read, and interesting, but I rarely find them informative. For one thing, the majority of the posts are not about scientific research results or recent journal articles. Much of what’s posted is (forgive the religious analogy) preaching to the choir, so it’s not exactly science “outreach” to the larger community either.

    There may be a lot of women scientists who have blogs, but perhaps their blogs are not science or academia blogs. I can think of a few women scientists who have arts and crafts blogs, for example; in my experience, many of the crafts blogs are truly informative, within their genre. But in any genre, I think blogging is essentially a self-serving, self-referential activity, which is why it’s so easy for web comics such as Married to the Sea to poke fun at bloggeurs on a regular basis. I certainly wouldn’t use blog readership as an indication of the influence of a given group in the broader world.

  131. #133 rachel
    September 23, 2007

    Sylvia Earle. An incredible oceanographer and inspiring voice for marine conservation.

  132. #134 Sili
    September 25, 2007

    I gave up reading at #60 when my last choice was mentioned (after #42 and #46). My first thought was M. Curie too, I’m afraid.

    I to cheat then and go for my own field: Prof. Judith A.K. Howard, FRS (and CBE, I see now that I went to confirm her initials), Durham. And more ‘personally’ prof. Christine J. McKenzie, Odense quondam Melbourne.

  133. #135 Kseniya
    September 25, 2007

    Let’s not forget marine biologist Dr. Carole Baldwin (as I apparently have done!)

  134. #136 Keith Douglas
    September 25, 2007

    John McKay: People tend to think of scientists (and even more so philosophers) as dead, for some reason I’ve never understood.

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