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Before we look at the struggle for equality and education, especially in science and mathematics, in early modern Europe, it is useful to examine the culture of science as it developed in the Middle Ages and during the “Scientific Revolution,” leading to modern science as we know it today. This culture can be defined by several aspects of the scientific enterprise: who does science, the attributes and characteristics of its workers, the attributes that are valued and respected, and those that are not. The language and metaphors describing scientific approaches and activities are also of interest. (In more recent times, the choice of research questions that are likely to be funded, published, and rewarded has also become a key driver of modern science, as will be discussed in a later chapter.) Origins and Development of Scientific Culture In most epochs, few women have been involved in science, philosophy, or mathematics, although there have also been Chapte r 4 R Women Who Participated in Science in Early Modern Europe 0014_Frize_5x8_B_v09_16_11_2009.indd 55 16/11/09 6:19 PM 56 THE BOLD AND THE BRAVE times when the opportunity for women to participate more fully in these intellectual endeavours was greater than in other periods. Margaret Alic (1986, pp. 20–50) writes, for example, about women who were involved in philosophy, mathematics, and invention in various cities in ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. However, from the beginning of recorded history, science, mathematics, and philosophy have been domains of knowledge mainly constructed by men, for men, with the deliberate exclusion of women. It is not surprising that the culture of science has been, and remains to this day, masculine. David F. Noble (1992, p. 3) has traced the historical origins of modern scientific culture by studying the evolution of the institutions associated with science: the professional societies, the academies, and the universities. He argues that this “world without women” did not simply emerge, but was constructed. An important factor was the rise, starting in the 2nd century CE, of clerical asceticism, which upheld traditional patriarchal patterns of female subordination and the exclusion of women from education. Much of the intellectual work, including science and mathematics, was performed by clerics and monks, except during a brief period in the 7th and 8th centuries, when double monasteries existed, with monks and nuns working side by side, in France, England, Ireland, and, later, Germany. These monasteries were considered centres of education and learning for women and men alike, and female intellectualism flourished during this period. The custom was for these double monasteries to be run by women (Noble 1992, pp. 30–33). Unfortunately, their decline and demise came with the Viking invasions and then the succession of monastic reforms brought about by Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, and St. Benedict. Only five of the fifty-three monasteries for women in France survived, virtually all of them being for cloistered women. Another negative factor was Charlemagne’s insistence that all scholarly work, such as the writing of textbooks, sermons, biblical commentaries, theological treatises, and interpretations of canon and civil law, 0014_Frize_5x8_B_v09_16_11_2009.indd 56 16/11/09 6:19 PM Women Who Participated in Science in Early Modern Europe 57 be done only by men. Double monasteries reappeared briefly during the religious revival of the 12th century, in a variety of forms, but early in the 13th century monasteries for women ceased to exist (Noble 1992, pp. 37–39). The first western universities were founded in Paris, Oxford, and Bologna at the end of the 12th century, creating another “world without women.” The new institutions, arising from ecclesiastical schools, were exclusively for males and entrenched the masculine culture in science and learning that has lasted for hundreds of years since. In the Middle Ages, women became involved in alchemy, herbal medicine, and midwifery, and a few participated in what we would now call science in the fullest sense. Take the example of Hildegard of Bingen (1099–1179), who mentioned heliocentricity nearly four hundred years before Copernicus, speculated about universal gravitation five hundred years before Newton, composed numerous pieces of music, and wrote on medicine and natural history. Hildegard was relatively prominent in the hierarchy of the church and was canonized after her death, although more because of her religious visions than her scientific work, so her name and her achievements have survived the centuries. Many other women who made, or could have made, contributions to science were not as fortunate as Hildegard. The European witch hunt, which...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780776618845
Related ISBN
9780776607252
MARC Record
OCLC
864851766
Pages
366
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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