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Physics > History and Philosophy of Physics

Title: Innovators and Interpreters: The Historic Role of Women in Science

Authors: Gina Hamilton
Abstract: Until this century, the number of working female scientists has been indeterminate. Prevailing wisdom indicates that women, historically, have not excelled in the mathematics and sciences, for various reasons. These range from societal pressures to marry and bear children, to a lack of systematic scientific education for females, to the lack of opportunity in institutions and industry. Women, until comparatively recently, were not in control of their own financial lives, and were therefore dependent upon the goodwill of a husband, father or brother, should they attempt to enter academic life. Many times, their accomplishments, and the accomplishments of these collaborating relatives, become so merged as to become indistinguishable. Nevertheless, with all these factors working against them, history records an occasional bright star. Their diaries, memoirs and correspondence detail both the similarities and the differences between their roles and the roles of modern female scientists, in their own minds, and in the estimation of those closest to them. There exists, in science, a dichotomy between the desire to understand one's universe, and the desire to change the understanding of others. These two fundamental desires lead future scientists to the discipline. Historically, the role of women has largely been interpretive, rather than innovative, by their own estimation. But is interpretation the "natural" role of women scientists?
Comments: submitted to Maine Scholar. Presented at Women's Studies Conference at University of Maine at August, 13 November 1999, and as faculty colloquium at University of New England, 16 November 1999
Subjects: History and Philosophy of Physics (physics.hist-ph); Physics and Society (physics.soc-ph)
Cite as: arXiv:physics/0001026 [physics.hist-ph]
  (or arXiv:physics/0001026v1 [physics.hist-ph] for this version)

Submission history

From: Gina Hamilton [view email]
[v1] Wed, 12 Jan 2000 16:24:25 GMT (14kb)