March is Women's History Month! Quick - name a famous woman scientist! Can you? Well, I asked my physics class yesterday to name a woman dead or alive who has made a contribution to science and the only name any one could drum up without racing to their cell phones to look it up was of course: Marie Curie - and that was a struggle, I had to give hints. And then I asked them to name men and, you betcha, the names flew out. Why the discrepancy? Is it because there are no women in history who have made a contribution to science? The answer of course is an emphatic NO. Without getting on my feminist high horse and arguing that women have been written out of history by the dominant group to perpetuate marginalization, blah blah blah....let me just point you to a few songs I wrote to try to bring some parity to our history.
Hi Tech Girl: A Brief History of Women in Science
Annie Jump Cannon
And for fun: Einstein's Angels
And here is an excellent website: 4000 Years of Women in Science:
And here is a website that I helped Geoff Marcy make a million years ago on the History of Women in Astronomy: http://astro.berkeley.edu/~gmarcy/women/history.html
The sorry state of our public education, especially regarding the recognition of female scientists, is apparently a nation-wide problem. Here is a biology prof in Minnesota who conducted a similar test, asking his students to list not one but ten female scientists in return for extra credit points on an exam: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/12/vignette_from_the_grading_wars.phpReplyDelete
It seems SRJC students aren't the only ones who will come up with Marie Curie easily enough but couldn't list another 2 or 3 if their lives depended on it. (Coincidentally, Jane Goodall came in second). A naive idealist like myself might even hope that the names of female scientists would be _all the more_ remembered for having achieved success in a male-dominated field within a male-dominated society. It's not an accident of history, but a testament to the continued existence of a patriarchy that the names "Watson and Crick" are at the tip of every biology student's tongue, but the only Franklin she/he knows is Ben. (I'm talking about Rosalind). Fortunately, there are some brilliant women in science now... like perspicacious women teachers who double as entertainers, for example... whose work is helping to dispel the pater-saturated paradigm.