Friday, June 5, 2015

Review: Headstrong: 52 Women who Changed Science - and the World by Rachel Swaby

Synopsis: In 2013, the New York Times published an obituary for Yvonne Brill. It began: “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” It wasn’t until the second paragraph that readers discovered why the Times had devoted several hundred words to her life: Brill was a brilliant rocket scientist who invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites in orbit, and had recently been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Among the questions the obituary—and consequent outcry—prompted were, Who are the role models for today’s female scientists, and where can we find the stories that cast them in their true light? Headstrong delivers a powerful, global, and engaging response. Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby’s vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one’s ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they’re best known. This fascinating tour reveals these 52 women at their best—while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats. (from the back of the book)

Review: In "A Room of One's Own", Virginia Wolf created a fictional sister of Shakespeare and lamented that this girl may have been of equal genius as her brother, but for lack of education and "a room of her own", she languished and died without her intellect ever being realized. No disrespect to Wolf or her imaginary heroine, but perhaps they should have taken note of the women in this book. While many of these women were encouraged to be educated by family, several were forbidden. But they learned anyway, even if it meant swiping books on physics from their father's library, like Sophie Kowalevski. As for space, often these women were denied pay or proper research space strictly because they were women - and yet, they turned janitor's closets into laboratories for radioisotope research, like Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, or a made world-changing scientific breakthroughs in dank, small labs with no bathrooms, like Lise Meitner.
Unlike the Wolf's fictional genius, these real life geniuses persevered, demanded space, and when denied, made it for themselves anyway. These amazing scientist knew what Wolf didn't seem to  - a woman with a passion is a force of nature, one that cannot be stopped.
Swaby does an excellent job of giving a brief overview of each one of these remarkable women. In fact, to my mind, she was a bit too brief. She could have added a more information and the book would have been better for it. However, her work stands as remarkable and worth reading. And mostly, worth sharing. I have the urge to buy this for all the young girls I know. Swaby was wise enough to add an extensive bibliography in the back, because as the reader, you will want to read up more on all of these remarkable scientist!

Note: I received this free as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviwer Program in exchange ofr my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-553-44679-1
Date Finished: 5-30-2015
Pages: 254

No comments:

Post a Comment