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Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries

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Since 1901 there have been over three hundred recipients of the Nobel Prize in the sciences. Only ten of them-about 3 percent-have been women. Why? In this updated version of Nobel Prize Women in Science, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne explores the reasons for this astonishing disparity by examining the lives and achievements of fifteen women scientists who either won a Nobel Pri Since 1901 there have been over three hundred recipients of the Nobel Prize in the sciences. Only ten of them-about 3 percent-have been women. Why? In this updated version of Nobel Prize Women in Science, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne explores the reasons for this astonishing disparity by examining the lives and achievements of fifteen women scientists who either won a Nobel Prize or played a crucial role in a Nobel Prize - winning project. The book reveals the relentless discrimination these women faced both as students and as researchers. Their success was due to the fact that they were passionately in love with science. The book begins with Marie Curie, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics. Readers are then introduced to Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, Emmy Noether, Lise Meitner, Barbara McClintock, Chien-Shiung Wu, and Rosalind Franklin. These and other remarkable women portrayed here struggled against gender discrimination, raised families, and became political and religious leaders. They were mountain climbers, musicians, seamstresses, and gourmet cooks. Above all, they were strong, joyful women in love with discovery. Nobel Prize Women in Science is a startling and revealing look into the history of science and the critical and inspiring role that women have played in the drama of scientific progress.


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Since 1901 there have been over three hundred recipients of the Nobel Prize in the sciences. Only ten of them-about 3 percent-have been women. Why? In this updated version of Nobel Prize Women in Science, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne explores the reasons for this astonishing disparity by examining the lives and achievements of fifteen women scientists who either won a Nobel Pri Since 1901 there have been over three hundred recipients of the Nobel Prize in the sciences. Only ten of them-about 3 percent-have been women. Why? In this updated version of Nobel Prize Women in Science, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne explores the reasons for this astonishing disparity by examining the lives and achievements of fifteen women scientists who either won a Nobel Prize or played a crucial role in a Nobel Prize - winning project. The book reveals the relentless discrimination these women faced both as students and as researchers. Their success was due to the fact that they were passionately in love with science. The book begins with Marie Curie, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics. Readers are then introduced to Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, Emmy Noether, Lise Meitner, Barbara McClintock, Chien-Shiung Wu, and Rosalind Franklin. These and other remarkable women portrayed here struggled against gender discrimination, raised families, and became political and religious leaders. They were mountain climbers, musicians, seamstresses, and gourmet cooks. Above all, they were strong, joyful women in love with discovery. Nobel Prize Women in Science is a startling and revealing look into the history of science and the critical and inspiring role that women have played in the drama of scientific progress.

30 review for Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries

  1. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    I thought this book was AWESOME! What great role models for girls. Why isn't my daughter learning about these women in her science classes???? Oh yeah, probably the same reason the high school reading list is almost all written by or about males, and of course with the token stupid girl character (i.e. The Princess Bride, Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby, Huck Finn, The Crucible, Fahrenheit 451 - all books my son read in HS). Real women can't be good at science or write good books, or even make I thought this book was AWESOME! What great role models for girls. Why isn't my daughter learning about these women in her science classes???? Oh yeah, probably the same reason the high school reading list is almost all written by or about males, and of course with the token stupid girl character (i.e. The Princess Bride, Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby, Huck Finn, The Crucible, Fahrenheit 451 - all books my son read in HS). Real women can't be good at science or write good books, or even make an ounce of sense if she's in one, don't ya know.. Sheesh. I must be angry about it or something. Just maybe.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Devin

    Two take aways: 1. All of these women were supported by at least some of their family, friends and colleagues in their scientific endeavors. Without this support they could not have achieved what they did. In fact those that lacked support in one of these crucial areas failed to win the prize. 2. These women could take criticism without giving up. They kept going on faith alone, on the belief that what they were doing was important. They believed in themselves. Many of them were clearly damaged by Two take aways: 1. All of these women were supported by at least some of their family, friends and colleagues in their scientific endeavors. Without this support they could not have achieved what they did. In fact those that lacked support in one of these crucial areas failed to win the prize. 2. These women could take criticism without giving up. They kept going on faith alone, on the belief that what they were doing was important. They believed in themselves. Many of them were clearly damaged by the rampant misogyny they were subjected to (who isn’t?) but they faced it as a fact of life and in this way rose to the challenge. All in all, these short biographies are important for the myths they shatter about women and science.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joyita

    Brings the struggles of women scientists in a male dominated setting to light. While generally an enjoyable and inspiring book, it does not seem to be very objective about well-known controversies!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sargisson

    An excellent book. It gives pocket biographies of all the women who either won or nearly won a Science Nobel prize. Marie Sklodwska Curie, Lise Meitner, Emmy Noether, Gerty Radnitz Cori, Irene Joliot-Curie, Barbara McClintock, Maria Goeppert Mayer, Rita Levi-montalcini, Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, Chien-Shiung Wu, Gertrude Elion, Rosalind Franklin, Rosalyn Sussman Yalow and Jocelyn Bell Burnell. It has many interesting stories and is based in most cases on direct interviews.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sai Sruthi

    I am learning Abstract Algebra at college. I didn't know that Emmy Noether was a pioneer in this field. Hats off to her! I feel women always have a tougher time than men, getting to the top ( even staying there is hard). This book was a great eye-opener- if you believe, you can do it even if the whole world is against you.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    I found this book by chance at the library while looking for books on women in sciences; the title obviously indicated this was right in the heart of my desired topic. For a quick summary; this book was wonderfully written, balancing the personal stories of these women, the current events of their day, and the science behind their discoveries. First off, its important to note that this book was published in the mid-1990s. The book canvasses the lives and careers of the 9 women to win Nobel prize I found this book by chance at the library while looking for books on women in sciences; the title obviously indicated this was right in the heart of my desired topic. For a quick summary; this book was wonderfully written, balancing the personal stories of these women, the current events of their day, and the science behind their discoveries. First off, its important to note that this book was published in the mid-1990s. The book canvasses the lives and careers of the 9 women to win Nobel prizes in the scientific disciplines (chemistry, physics, physiology/medicine) and 5 women whose work was instrumental to the discoveries that won Nobel prizes for their male peers. Since its writing, 6 additional women have won scientific Nobel prizes. The true key to this book, i feel, is how much the author, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, evokes the drives and passion all of these women had for their fields. Often working without pay in suboptimal conditions, having to covertly conduct research in attics, fighting for recognition from the leading scientific institutions, none of this mattered to these women.The mix of anecdotes quoted from the women covered in this book, as well as their peers, students, friends and family lend a beautiful personal touch and let you understand how passionately all of these women felt about their fields. Science was not a job, not a hobby, it was their very lives. I cannot recommend this book enough to people with an interest in not only women in science, but the reasons people are driven to pursue science. Great discoveries are not just made, they are achieved through a lifetime of experiences.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I have mixed feelings about this book, and despite not finding it great and even doubting some details accuracy at times (like saying Marie Curie and Einstein were friend... or this book is wrong or E=mc2 is wrong), I'm still glad I read it and I think is a book I shall keep in my library for future reference and inspiration. On the good side, the book addresses a quite important topic: why aren't there more women in science? And it actually shows us that there are more than what many of us migh I have mixed feelings about this book, and despite not finding it great and even doubting some details accuracy at times (like saying Marie Curie and Einstein were friend... or this book is wrong or E=mc2 is wrong), I'm still glad I read it and I think is a book I shall keep in my library for future reference and inspiration. On the good side, the book addresses a quite important topic: why aren't there more women in science? And it actually shows us that there are more than what many of us might have thought, by providing an overview of the life, struggles and accomplishments of 14 scientific women, giving at the same time an outlook on the many challenges women as a collective have overcome to be in the position we're today and also on how science is made and the hard work that must be put into projects to achieve great things. I loved all of it very much. On the faulty side, I found many of the biographies rather shallow, leaving too many questions about their personal life and even about their work unanswered; the writing itself wasn't great: I found myself quite lost at times (did this happen before or after she got married? How old was she by then? Was this done over a period of days, weeks, months, years? Are we now talking in present time or is that in the past? What is the other side of the story?) and quite bored at some other times (despite the subjects where quite interesting, often you could not distinguish one biography from the other. Sure they all faced very similar problems but I believe is the author's work to make each story compelling). Additionally, I felt the author was quite idealizing and non-objective at times.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mario

    I just read that one chapter on Emmy Noether. She didn't win a Nobel prize but she is purported to be the mathematical giant behind Einstein. It's a fine biographical sketch, much more informative than the Wikipage, as I'd expected.There are some heartwarming scenes from when the Nazi party came into power. Almost all students were sympathetic to the nationalism the party espoused. But she continued to teach her students in her apartment (they were wearing the brown uniform of the SS) that after I just read that one chapter on Emmy Noether. She didn't win a Nobel prize but she is purported to be the mathematical giant behind Einstein. It's a fine biographical sketch, much more informative than the Wikipage, as I'd expected.There are some heartwarming scenes from when the Nazi party came into power. Almost all students were sympathetic to the nationalism the party espoused. But she continued to teach her students in her apartment (they were wearing the brown uniform of the SS) that after being dismissed for being a Jew. It also presents personal letters with the usual quip on how Einstein or Hilbert revered/adored the dear Fraulein. There are also anecdotes on her intellectual prowess: Of how she is essentially the writer of the celebrated van der Waerden text or of how she had to slow down for Emil Artin. It comes with a bibliography too for further reading. If one wants to check on the definitive Noether biography or to the intellectual/mathematical biography of the ideas she hatched.

  9. 4 out of 5

    MyLoveAffairWithTheWrittenWord

    Not a bad read if you want short, condensed essays about famous women scientists and their crowning achievements. I found it very sad that a majority of these brilliant minds, even though they were awarded Nobel prizes, had difficulties finding jobs and earning the respect of their colleagues, simply because they were women; and, on top of being a woman, if they were Jewish the odds were even more stacked against them. Although it claims to be anti-feminist, I did find some feminist themes throu Not a bad read if you want short, condensed essays about famous women scientists and their crowning achievements. I found it very sad that a majority of these brilliant minds, even though they were awarded Nobel prizes, had difficulties finding jobs and earning the respect of their colleagues, simply because they were women; and, on top of being a woman, if they were Jewish the odds were even more stacked against them. Although it claims to be anti-feminist, I did find some feminist themes throughout, which presented a bit of a contradiction to me. That being said, it's enjoyable if you want to briefly learn about the likes of Madame Curie and Rosalind Franklin in short bursts at a time. Personally, I would much rather prefer reading full-fledged biographies about each, rather than short snippets of their lives and accomplishments. But that's just me. Other people who just want to learn about the successes and struggles of woman in science might find this a more than adequate brief introduction into their lives.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brianna

    Three Stars I thoroughly enjoyed learning about other women in science with their struggles and success. There was a lot I did not know about, so it was enjoyable to learn something new. I was amazed at the difficulties these women faced. I did not like how it became like reading a textbook. It dragged on in monotony at times. I wish there had a been a way the author could have broken up the routine of hard work, discrimination, long hours, etc. All 14 stories seemed similar and that made it go s Three Stars I thoroughly enjoyed learning about other women in science with their struggles and success. There was a lot I did not know about, so it was enjoyable to learn something new. I was amazed at the difficulties these women faced. I did not like how it became like reading a textbook. It dragged on in monotony at times. I wish there had a been a way the author could have broken up the routine of hard work, discrimination, long hours, etc. All 14 stories seemed similar and that made it go slow. The personal stories helped, but a few more would have helped me to grow closer to these women as we dragged on together through the lab at all hours. Loved the descriptions of what these women were working on. For the most part I could follow along easily, but I do have a background in science. I'm sure non-science based readers would have been lost more than once in the dialogue and description involving these experiments, apparatuses, and general scientific workings of the world.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Okay, the subject matter for this book is obviously excellent. I thought the writing was subpar, though - I found myself thinking about the writing as I read (and not in a good way), which is generally a bad sign. There were weird non sequiters and tense changes and moments where I got the impression the author liked an anecdote and just attached it to a paragraph so it would go somewhere. Also, seriously, what was up with that ice cream recipe at the end of Rita Levi-Montalcini's chapter??? But, Okay, the subject matter for this book is obviously excellent. I thought the writing was subpar, though - I found myself thinking about the writing as I read (and not in a good way), which is generally a bad sign. There were weird non sequiters and tense changes and moments where I got the impression the author liked an anecdote and just attached it to a paragraph so it would go somewhere. Also, seriously, what was up with that ice cream recipe at the end of Rita Levi-Montalcini's chapter??? But, I learned about a lot of really cool women and learned some of their scientific contributions. If anything, they were a bit much to keep straight. Great book for a book club!!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Pendred Noyce

    I keep coming back to this book for its inspiring, human, well-researched tales of women who received, or just missed receiving, the Nobel Prize in Science. Sharon McGrayne does a masterful job of combining the personal with the scientific, and she brings each woman to life as a real, complex personality with struggles and triumphs, joys and sorrows. The writing is accessible, and McGrayne explains the science in enough detail that it becomes intelligible to a reader with only a general science I keep coming back to this book for its inspiring, human, well-researched tales of women who received, or just missed receiving, the Nobel Prize in Science. Sharon McGrayne does a masterful job of combining the personal with the scientific, and she brings each woman to life as a real, complex personality with struggles and triumphs, joys and sorrows. The writing is accessible, and McGrayne explains the science in enough detail that it becomes intelligible to a reader with only a general science background. If you're a woman scientist, or a teenage girl thinking about science, or the parent of a girl who might want to study science, I highly recommend this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    CelebrenIthil

    A very well-written, very interesting read, but I get so riled up against all the unfairness piled on these women (and the countless others that were lost in the mists of time) that I can only tolerate to read a few pages in one sitting. Not the author's fault of course. I definitely encourage everyone to pick this book and learn about a handful of historical figures we should all have known about if the world was fair.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn Campbell

    The author examined the lives of several female Nobelists and should-have-been Nobelists in the sciences. It is a feminist perspective seeking to both illuminate the contributions and the additional gender-based difficulties faced. I am ashamed to admit that I did not recognize the names of six of these women. And I think of myself as a science groupie. No solutions are prescribed, but the stories are worth the time.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mallory

    A wonderful collection of biographies on some amazing scientists. It was surprising to read just how sexist the world was (and in many cases, still is.) These women had to overcome huge obstacles to establish themselves in the man's world of scientific research. I think that every aspiring scientist (male or female) should read this book!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Susan O

    This is a book of mini-biographies which you can read individually. So far I'm really enjoying it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    This. Is. A. Great. Book. This. Book. Should. Be. A. Movie. In. One. Word. Extranoary.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    It took me 1.5 yrs to read this book, but it was well worth it and soon enough I will start it over again because I'm sure there was more to be gained (and retained).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Trudie

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mallory

  21. 5 out of 5

    Libby

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gabriela Horosanu

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeannine

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ana

  26. 5 out of 5

    Darlene Showalter

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wooin

  28. 5 out of 5

    James

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mai Nguyen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alice

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