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The Madame Curie Complex

The Hidden History of Women in Science

Julie Des Jardins

Publication Year: 2010

Des Jardins uncovers the stories of prominent women scientists – from Rachel Carson to Jane Goodall to the women of the Manhattan Project—to explore how women often approach science differently than men. She offers insight into the barriers women in science face as well as their successes, and shows how socially defined gender roles have shaped scientific inquiry.

Published by: The Feminist Press

Series: Women Writing Science

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

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Introduction: Through the Lives of Women Scientists

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pp. 1-10

... who won the World Series, or of courageous expeditions to Antarctica or the moon. My father’s story to me was about Enrico Fermi and the scientists who created a nuclear chain reaction beneath the stands of the football stadium at the University of Chicago during World War II. As a lifelong Chicagoan, Dad preferred this story to those about heroic men at Los Alamos. It was at this moment under Stagg ...

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I. Assistants, Housekeepers, and Interchangeable Parts: Women Scientists and Professionalization,1880–1940

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pp. 11-22

... the nation’s expanding technostructure required better “selection and development of men of outstanding ability in science.” His call for “men” was not accidental; he imagined the best candidates to be masculine, rugged types and likened them to “explorers” in search of “nature’s gold.” Thomas Alva Edison, holder of more than one thousand American patents and the most widely recognized scientist in the ...

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1. Madame Curie’s American Tours: Women and Science in the 1920s

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pp. 23-52

... sit with American editor Marie Mattingly Meloney for a profile to be published in Meloney’s magazine, the Delineator. Stéphane Lauzanne, editor-in-chief of Le Matin, had been following the Nobel laureate’s story for years. “She will see no one,” he warned Meloney. “She cannot understand why scientists, rather than science, should be discussed in the press.” For all her attempts to prevent it, Curie’s ...

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2. Making Science Domestic and Domesticity Scientific: The Ambiguous Life and Ambidextrous Work of Lillian Gilbreth

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pp. 53-87

... topic of discussion was not allowance or curfews, but how to proceed now that the patriarch of the house, industrial engineer Frank Gilbreth, was no longer present and in charge. Just a few days ago he had died of a heart attack in a phone booth at the local train station. It was the same day that his second-eldest daughter was graduating from high school, and he was rushing around before the ceremony ...

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3. To Embrace or Decline Marriage and Family:Annie Jump Cannon and the Women of the Harvard Observatory, 1880–1940

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pp. 9688-114

... of the Henry Draper Medal for research in astronomical physics. For the first time in the history of the prize, it was a woman, the ebullient Annie Jump Cannon, curator of photographic plates at the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard University. That a woman would be so honored was astounding. Since most science fields had been professionalized toward the end of the nineteenth century, women had ...

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II. The Cult of Masculinity in the Age of Heroic Science,1941–1962

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pp. 117-129

... the shape of Earth. Geophysicists had figured that with proper gravity measurements, they could determine the planet’s internal density distribution and come closer to understanding the forces creating Earth’s structure. Men of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey had proposed a theoretical construct, but they lacked data from the ocean basins. The development of a pendulum gravimeter made them ...

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4. Those Science Made Invisible:Finding the Women of the Manhattan Project [Includes Cover Plates]

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pp. 130-156

... it was time to flee. She received a visitor’s visa to the United States, and her loved ones saw her off. “Tell Roosevelt, or ask Einstein to ask Roosevelt, to get America to enter the war against the Germans,” a friend told her. But it took time to be heard by an elite scientist in the United States, let alone to secure a job working with one. Her first stop was ...

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5. Maria Goeppert Mayer and Rosalind Franklin: The Politics of Partners and Prizes in the Heroic Age of Science

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pp. 157-200

It was 1948 at Argonne Laboratories, just outside Chicago. For two years the theoretical physicist Maria Goeppert Mayer had been working with her colleague and friend Edward Teller on one of the most basic questions in the physical universe: the origins of elements, starting with the nature of neutronic matter after the Big Bang. Teller hated working ...

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III. American Women and Science in Transition,1962–

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pp. 201-218

... reading Microbe Hunters as a child. It’s ironic that her inspiration was also that of James Watson, for their career paths diverged widely. She, too, had performed stunningly in college; the women who had mentored her were brilliant but taught at Wellesley because the research institutions that had trained them wouldn’t hire them. They ...

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6. Generational Divides: Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, Evelyn Fox Keller, Barbara McClintock, and Feminism after 1963

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pp. 219-252

... when she dubbed her “a Madam Curie from the Bronx” in 1978. After she became famous, Yalow hosted a Public Broadcasting Service series on the French scientist, for one of her greatest inspirations had been a biography written by Curie’s daughter that she read as she embarked on her academic career in 1937. “For me,” she reflected, “the most important part of the book was that, in spite of ...

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7. The Lady Trimates and Feminist Science?: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birut

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pp. 253-284

Often I think of science in technological terms—of the cold machinery, the devices, and accelerators, the weapons that science makes possible— all the things that modern science creates and utilizes. However, one day, I thought of science and appreciated its intent to look more closely into the beauty and mystery of nature. I had a glimpse of science in a different light, and at that moment the image of the woman in my dream came to ...

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Conclusion: Apes, Corn, and Silent Springs: A Women’s Tradition of Science?

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pp. 285-294

... women in science. The change caused discomfort for some women, since it threatened their professional identities; the men who had trained them had also convinced them that their teachers’ perspectives of both nature and scientific practice were disinterested and ultimately authoritative. Both women and men believed that there was ...

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pp. 295-296

space to create, and most women understand what she meant. As I wrote this book, I took care of two babies, worked a full-teaching load, and commuted three and a half hours to work. On the nights I spent away from my kids and on train rides home, I slipped into bathrooms to plug in my breast pump and read like the dickens about women scientists. Such are the joys of juggling two children and two ...


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pp. 297-312

E-ISBN-13: 9781558616554
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558616134

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Women Writing Science