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For Women’s History Month: Eight Books from the SB&F Archives


For Women’s History Month: Eight from the Archives

In recent years SB&F, the AAAS review journal,  has been publishing a bibliography in our March issue to coincide with Women’s History Month. Each year we have updated it to add recently published books. This year we also searched through our archives to find some older titles that still had important things to say about the history of women in science. Some of these are listed below. Our full list, featuring complete annotations for these and many other titles can be downloaded at our website.

Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers: Prophet of the Computer Age, by Betty Alexandra Toole. Kindle edition, 1998.
There are various editions of this book available today. This edition seems the most useful. It is the culmination of Toole’s  more than eight years in British archives and libraries and is both biography and  an extraordinary collection of letters written by Ada Lovelace. Toole provides a thorough and fleshed out picture of Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter and one of the first to write programs of instructions for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engines, the precursors to the modern computer. Her letters and notes contain what many consider to be the first computer program—that is, an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine.

American Women Afield: Writing by Pioneering Women Naturalists, by Marcia Myers Bonta. College Station, TX: Texas A&M 1995
This volume includes the work of 25 women that spanned over a century; biographical sketches and reprints reveal their subjects and writing styles. In most instances, Bonta’s research is impressive in both technical substance and geographic location. Her subjects were vigorous, talented women living in a male-dominated society using their unusual talents as naturalists to educate the public about nature's deserts, forests, beaches, and jungles.

Bright Galaxies, Dark Matters (Masters of Modern Physics), by Vera Rubin. College Park, MD: American Institute of Physics, 1997
Vera Rubin is an astronomer best known for her  pioneering work on galaxy rotation rates. Her study of galactic rotation curves uncovered the discrepancy between the predicted angular motion of galaxies and the observed motion. Her work confirmed the existence of dark matter. This book, published in 1997, presents an engaging selection of her essays dealing with a variety of subjects in astronomy and astrophysics, particularly galaxies and dark matter.

Ladies in the Laboratory? American and British Women in Science, 1800-1900: A Survey of Their Contributions to Research, by Mary R S Creese. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1998.
Useful as a reference and an encyclopedia , this book gives biographical sketches of American and British women scientists between 1800 and 1900; it will probably be most interesting to those interested in history--specifically, the history of women in science. They state each woman's contribution to science in a sentence or two, without much context or explanation, and mention the birthplace, parents, siblings, education, major publications, and other scientists with whom they communicated or collaborated.

Their Day in the Sun: Women of the Manhattan Project, by Ruth H. Howes with a foreword by Ellen C. Weaver. Philadelphia: Temple, 1999.
In this painstakingly researched volume, the authors provide an overview of the lives and work of over 300 women who performed technical and scientific work on the project. The war effort, and the Manhattan Project in particular, opened unprecedented opportunities for women in science and technology. This work still provides a valuable beginning to the study of a previously neglected topic and contributes to our knowledge of the history of women in science.

To the Ends of the Earth: Women's Search for Education in Medicine, by Thomas Neville Donner. (Illus.) Cambridge, MA: Harvard,1992.
This book traces the difficulties faced by women who entered the field of medicine between 1850 and 1914. Only rarely did 19th century American medical schools admit women. Consequently, most women physicians were trained in Europe. Towards the end of the 19th century, American women opened segregated female medical schools so that training for women was more available in the United States. This work is scholarly and carefully researched, with an emphasis on primary source materials.

The Triumph of Discovery: Women Scientists Who Won the Nobel Prize, by Joan Dash.  (Illus.) Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Messner, 1991
This book introduces the work and lives of  Nobel prize-winning scientists like  Maria Goeppart-Mayer, Rosalyn Yalow, Barbara McClintock, and Rita Levi-Montalcini to younger readers. Dash does an excellent job of storytelling: her words make these women come alive in a very personal and exciting way as she tells of four young women making important decisions about how they want to spend their lives.

Women and Nature: Saving the Wild West, by Glenda Riley (Illus.) Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska, 1999.
In this volume, author Glenda Riley firmly grounds the modern environmental movement in the concerns of women who explored the bond between nature and humans. She expands our understanding of environmental history by looking at a wide range of nature-related activities carried out by women. This thoroughly researched work opens new vistas and opportunities for scholars as they probe the developing concept of environmentalism.