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Throughout the brief history of human beings, men have been recognized for their achievements in all spheres of endeavour. Their ubiquitous presence has been observed and documented in many forms of literary production. In government, the military, religion, and commerce, they have been prominent in the upper echelons of power and control. In our early scholastic years, we are made aware of their achievements, past and present, and of their contributions to the progress of civilization. “Lest we forget,” statues have been erected in their honour, buildings, bridges, roads, airports, and highways have been named after them, and paintings have been commissioned to ensure their posterity. Young men with high aspirations and ambition certainly have a plethora of role models to choose from and emulate. For young women, especially in science and engineering, it is a different story. They know of few female role models to admire and emulate. This is not to suggest that such role models do not exist. On the contrary, there are many, from the past to the present, who, unlike their male counterparts, Chapte r 1 5 R The Bold and the Brave: Sophie Germain, Mileva Marić Einstein, and Rosalind Franklin 0014_Frize_5x8_B_v09_16_11_2009.indd 261 16/11/09 6:19 PM 262 THE BOLD AND THE BRAVE have been either ignored or rendered invisible by historians. If students in a science class were asked to name as many female scientists as they could, most would be hard pressed to proceed further than Marie Curie, and they would probably be unaware that her daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie, also won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, in 1935. Yet the list of brilliant women is long, even if our collective memory of them is short. The purpose of this chapter is to shed some light on the lives and work of just a few of the bold and brave women who have challenged the male status quo, often to the detriment of their health, even of their lives. For men, the world, and even the universe, have been available for their personal discovery, influence, and profit. The knowledge they accumulated, coupled with the assets they acquired, were passed on to the next generation of male progeny. The continuous flow of information and assets only to male offspring left more than 50 percent of the world’s population at a great disadvantage, unable to achieve financial independence. Historically, a woman’s role was defined and strictly adhered to. Her world was relegated to a small area, and her raison d’être was to procreate. The only information deemed necessary for her was about domesticity, and the only knowledge that she acquired was that her lowly position in life was preordained from cradle to grave. In today’s fast-paced world, which is inundated with electronic gadgets and information overload, it can be difficult to pause and take stock about how we should live. Many people no longer have time to reflect, only react. How we use the technology and information that is so readily at hand can have a positive or a disastrous effect on humanity. For example, when the ultrasound monitor came on the market in the 1970s, its purpose was to monitor the health and status of the foetus, but unfortunately it could also determine its sex. In several developing countries, opportunistic clinics have opened up on street corners, advertising prenatal information on the sex of the foetus. In China, India, and other countries 0014_Frize_5x8_B_v09_16_11_2009.indd 262 16/11/09 6:19 PM The Bold and the Brave: Sophie Germain, Mileva Marić Einstein, and Rosalind Franklin 263 where female children are looked upon as a burden and not as a blessing, the acquisition of this information is frequently followed by an abortion if the foetus is female. Sadly, this demonstrates a cultural attitude in some countries that prizes the male child, resulting in millions of women missing from the planet. When I agreed to collaborate on this book, my task was to discover and profile a few women who had bravely and boldly involved themselves in the sciences at times when this was exceptional. Before I carried out this task, my own awareness of women in the sciences was minimal. During my early schooling, the achievements of women were rarely mentioned in history lectures: “her-story” was submerged by “his-story.” However, although my own discipline is in arts and not in science, I do have the benefit of being married to a scientist (an engineer), whose guidance...


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