“Just remember that if you want to do this stuff, you’re not alone.”

It seems like everyone and their cats are posting this xkcd comic, but it’s so good that I’m going to follow the crowd. 

I must admit horrible ignorance when it comes to female scientists. If you had asked me 10 years ago to name three scientists who are women, I would have only been able to name one: Marie Curie. Which is really, really, too bad. It’s hard to throw yourself into something when there are so few role models.

Anyway, my ignorance is something I want to remedy. I know you, faithful readers, are a well-read bunch. Can you recommend any good biographies of groundbreaking female scientists? I might even review some of your suggestions on the blog.

Do it. And stay away from radium.

Image credit: xkcd

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Mindy is an attorney and Managing Editor of Teen Skepchick. She hates the law and loves stars. You can follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


  1. May 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm —

    A good place to start with reading up on this kind of thing is Ada Lovelace Day, an annual celebration of women in science and their achievements. I posted a blog entry for it last year on Rosalind Franklin, an under-appreciated co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, and I can recommend the biography of hers which I read by Brenda Maddox.

  2. May 10, 2011 at 6:06 am —

    -My absolute favourite biography is that of Clara Immerwahr. http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/immerwahr-clara. It is inspiring and tragic, all in one short life.

    -Rosalind Franklin has already been mentioned.

    -Maria Goeppert-Mayer proposed the shell model of the atomic nucleus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Goeppert-Mayer

    Here is a particularly beautiful quote from her explaining her discovery: “Think of a room full of waltzers. Suppose they go round the room in circles, each circle enclosed within another. Then imagine that in each circle, you can fit twice as many dancers by having one pair go anti-clockwise and another pair go counterclockwise. Then add one more variation; all the dancers are spinning twirling round and round like tops as they circle the room, each pair both twirling and circling. But only some of those that go counterclockwise are twirling counterclockwise. The others are twirling clockwise while circling counterclockwise. The same is true of those that are dancing around clockwise: some twirl clockwise, others twirl counterclockwise.”

    -I don’t think it is especially well known that Florence Nightingale was not only a nurse, but a statistician: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/38937/title/Florence_Nightingale_The_passionate_statistician

    -Sophie Germain is another favourite: http://www.agnesscott.edu/lriddle/women/germain.htm

    -Rachel Carson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Carson

    I think that is enough in the meantime 😀

  3. May 10, 2011 at 1:52 pm —

    My favorite is Sophie Germain, who Lauren already mentioned. So her x2!

  4. June 13, 2011 at 5:36 am —

    Lady composers have it worse – pretty much no one outside of the classical music community has heard of any of us. And most of the ones they know are sisters or wives of other more famous male composers (e.g. Maria Anna Mozart, Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Alma Mahler) who, like Marie Curie, tend to just be treated as tokens, as Shakespeare’s Sister case studies in how shitty it was for women who wanted to write music back then.

    Actually, though, many of the most notable and talented modern composers are women. It made me very happy to find that out.

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