Lise Meitner in 1946

Take the poll! You can choose four! In honor of Women’s History Month, we are taking a moment to ask ourselves who inspires us most among notable women of science?  There are lots of ways I could have asked this.  I could have asked, “who were the most influential women in science?”  Or “Whose ideas were the most important?”  Or “Who did the most for women’s participation in the scientific enterprise?”  All of these are important questions, but I left it vague.  Please vote for up to four, and please take a moment to explain why in the comments.  Also, contact me if you think I should add someone to the list.  Obviously it is a very limited list, only twenty, taken from my own courses on the history of science.  Although it starts here in March 2012, I’ll leave the poll up.

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8 thoughts on “Women in Science: Who Inspires You?

  1. This was too hard, there are so many great women on this list, and it is too hard for me to pick even though I think I need to go back and take more of Prof Hamblin’s classes as I only know half of the women on this list. But I want to add a new one. One of my biggest heroines is Dr. Alice Stewart. She found in the 1950s that pelvic xrays given to pregnant women were killing babies in their first year of life and eventually (it still took twenty years in some places) pelvic xrays for pregnant women were stopped. She had a role in founding and defining the field of epidemiology as well as she continued her work in radiation studies. Later studies she worked on found that rates of cancer for Hanford workers was creating illnesses and deaths at much higher rates by much lower radiation levels than had been expected. She was maligned for her work on low dose and radiation exposure her whole career and struggled for funding. She was harassed even after death as her obituary was written by an “arch enemy” researcher who disputed her findings. Read the book “The Woman Who Knew Too Much” and you can learn a bit about her. There are materials in the OHSU archives about her and I need to go look at those soon, too, as she was a visiting professor at PSU for a year and she worked closely with Rudi Nussbaum who worked on nuclear safety.

  2. I agree with Linda this was rather hard, but I had to go with Lise Meitner, Rosalind Franklin and Hypatia of Alexandria. My underlying theme; each was a woman who did not receive the level of recognition that she was entitled to until after her death. These women made flesh the personal traits of dedication, intelligence and courage. For Franklin and Hypatia it can be said that their devotion to their work literally contributed to their deaths, yet they did not shirk the mantle that had been placed upon them. The personal cost of courage paid by these women is what inspires me to continue to look upon the social construction of science with a critical eye instead of with a spoon ready to sup it up as written.

  3. It’s soo hard to choose just one – all these women are inspiring (and fascinating). A great list though, thanks for compiling !

  4. I chose Isabel Morgan Mountain who for me epitomizes the double bind of women in science, particularly before more recent times. She was on the verge of discovering a polio vaccine in the late 1940s and gave it all up to get married and have children. Salk got all the credit although she did a lot of the same work. I am glad women’s choices now are not quite as stark.

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