History of Women in the Sciences

Readings from Isis

Edited by Sally Gregory Kohlstedt
Published by the University of Chicago Press, 1999

women-in-science-148x223Why is it that some women have created successful careers in science, when historically there have been so many barriers that exclude women from engaging in scientific work? Here is a comparative history that illuminates some of the patterns that have emerged in the history of women in science.

This book features some of the most influential and pioneering studies of women in the sciences, with a special focus on patterns of education, access, barriers, and opportunities for women’s work in science. Spanning the 17th through the 20th centuries, the book demonstrates the meaning and power of gender experienced by women in the sciences.

Individual chapters focus on exceptional women whose unusual initiative and particular circumstance led them to engage in science: Laura Bassi, Nettie Stevens, Maria Winkelmann, and others. Chapters on women’s access to science discuss collaboration with family members in the domestic sphere, the impact of primers and popular science writing, and formal education in public schools and advanced research institutions. There are examinations of the reasons for clusters of women working in “female friendly” sciences such as botany and physiology in the 19th century and astronomy in the U.S. during the early 20th century.

This important and useful book provides a thoughtful and detailed overview for scholars and students in the history of science, as well as for feminist historians, scientists, and others who who want a comparative and historical analysis of women in the sciences.

Contributors include Janet Browne, Paula Findlen, Peggy Aldrich Kidwell, Ann Hibner Koblitz, M. Susan Lindee, Carolyn Merchant, Margaret W. Rossiter, Londa Schiebinger, Nancy Leys Stepan, and Deborah Jean Warner.

Table of Contents

Sally Gregory Kohlstedt

Isis‘ Consciousness Raised
Carolyn Merchant

Managing an Experimental Household: The Dees of Mortlake and the Practice of Natural Philosophy
Deborah E. Harkness

Maria Winkelmann at the Berlin Academy: A Turning Point for Women in Science
Londa Schiebinger

Science as a Career in Enlightenment Italy: The Strategies of Laura Bassi
Paula Findlen

Botany for Gentlemen: Erasmus Darwin and The Loves of the Plants
Janet Browne

Goethe’s Botany: Lessons of a Feminine Science
Lisbet Koerner

The American Career of Jane Marcet’s Conversations on Chemistry, 1806–1853
M. Susan Lindee

Parlors, Primers, and Public Schooling: Education for Science in Nineteenth-Century America
Sally Gregory Kohlstedt

Science Education for Women in Antebellum America
Deborah Jean Warner

Science, Women, and the Russian Intelligentsia: The Generation of the 1860s
Ann Hibner Koblitz

Women Astronomers in Britain, 1780–1930
Peggy Aldrich Kidwell

“A Lab of One’s Own:” The Balfour Biological Laboratory for Women at Cambridge University, 1884–1914
Marsha L. Richmond
Race and Gender: The Role of Analogy in Science
Nancy Leys Stepan

“Women’s Work” in Science, 1880–1910
Margaret W. Rossiter

Physiology in American Women’s Colleges: The Rise and Decline of a Female Subculture
Toby A. Appel

Nettie M. Stevens and the Discovery of Sex Determination by Chromosomes
Stephen G. Brush

Marcella O’Grady Boveri (1863–1950): Her Three Careers in Biology
Margaret R. Wright



History of Women in the Sciences: Readings from Isis is available from the University of Chicago Press.