NOBEL PRIZE WOMEN IN SCIENCE by Sharon McGrayne Bertsch

NOBEL PRIZE WOMEN IN SCIENCE

Their Lives, Struggles and Momentous Discoveries
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Add to the genre of books on the sociology of women in science this first-rate compendium of bios of women who got the Big One-- and a few who came close. Some are familiar (Marie Curie, who got it twice) and some have been covered in recent books (Rita Levi- Montalcini--In Praise of Imperfection, 1988). What's gratifying is that Bertsch (physics writer-editor for the Encyclopaedia Brittanica) neither preaches nor screeches but allows the facts- -documented in interviews with and in records of the women--to speak for themselves. The stories begin in Europe with the Curies in France and with Lise Meitner and Emmy Noether (probably the most distinguished woman mathematician in history) in Germany, the latter two suffering the double blow of being Jews as well as women. Bertsch then reviews a second generation of greats, including Gerty Cori (enzymology), Irene Curie, Maria Goeppert-Mayer (nuclear shell theory), Dorothy Hodgkin (X-ray crystallography), Chien-Shiung Wu (nuclear physics), Levi-Montalcini, and Rosalyn Yallow (inventor of the radioimmunoassay). The younger generation is represented by Jocelyn Bell (pulsars), who, in contrast to the others, changed careers. The common struggles are with male prejudice; barriers prohibiting women from attending university; prohibitions against hiring, nepotism, whatever--conditions that left many of these women spending their lives as unpaid volunteers or lowly associates. But the other commonalities are passion, energy, a conviction of intellectual strength, and sheer joy in doing science. Many of the women were strongly encouraged by their fathers or by a strong belief in learning. And no stereotypes prevail: Female genius can be accompanied by good looks, gourmet tastes, and wealth--or by a single-minded devotion to science with not a care about appearance or worldly goods, just as with men. Gratifying reading for women of all ages--and would that men would read it as well. (Twelve pages of photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 1-55972-146-4
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Birch Lane Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1992




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