Monday, August 16, 2010

Name Five Famous Women Scientists

I've mentioned previously that I like to ask female (and sometimes male) students this question during their general exams:  Can you name five famous female scientists and what their contribution to science was?  I have yet to get an answer that lists more than two women (often, one of these is me, which doesn't count).  This statistic has not changed in the past 20 years.  Surprising, considering how many more women are succeeding in science, are getting degrees in science, and who should be interested in success stories of other women.

I often hear from female students that they lack female mentors or role models.  Perhaps they don't have someone they know personally.  However, there are plenty of women in history who have not only succeeded, but have done some pretty amazing things.   

As I was growing up, I read biographies of famous scientists--all male.  I've since tried to read biographies of female scientists and naturalists as well as books they've written about science or about their experiences.  Some of the more amazing women include Mary Kingsley (explored east Africa alone during the 1800s) who wrote several accounts of her explorations.  She was one of the first women I read about who inspired me.  There have been many others since--not all of them well-known.

Anyway, there is abundant information on the internet nowadays for anyone interested in knowing more about the contribution of women to science and exploration.  The library of Congress has a starting list of readings for girls and young women: Biography of Women Scientists. There are also links to other information such as Girls in Science and Education: How to Engage Girls in Science.

Check it out.

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