Minibiographies of women and their accomplishments in science.
Freelance journalist and Longshot magazine senior editor Swaby presents brief histories of 52 women who have been recognized for their accomplishments and contributions to a wide variety of scientific fields, including medicine, biology, genetics, physics and astronomy, among others. Although many of these women may not be familiar names outside their courses of study, the author’s spadework should bring them to the forefront, allowing the general public to learn about the females who pushed beyond sexist attitudes to undertake and achieve success in a male-dominated arena. Covering a few hundred years, from the 1600s to the 1950s, Swaby only includes those women whose “life work has already been completed.” Many of the women were pioneers, breaking gender barriers to attend famous schools, like France’s École de Médecine, in order to pursue their dreams of becoming doctors, scientists and other professionals. There were also those who fought against religious persecution to continue their experiments. Among Swaby’s subjects are Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, Stephanie Kwolek, the American who invented Kevlar, and Inge Lehmann, the Dane who discovered Earth’s inner core. “By treating women in science like scientists instead of anomalies or wives who moonlight in the lab,” writes the author, “we can accelerate the growth of a whole new generation of chemists, archaeologists, and cardiologists while also revealing a whole hidden history of the world.” These short accounts should inspire girls who want to study science to follow their dreams and would be useful to teachers who wish to include more information about successful women in their curriculums.
Readers may argue over the selections, but Swaby provides succinct and informative narratives on some of the women who have made important contributions to the realm of science.