Book Review: Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, Rachel Ignotofsky (2016)

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

From Ada Lovelace to Wang Zhenyi: A Celebration of Women Scientists

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Blogging for Books.)

It’s made to believe
Women are the same as men;
Are you not convinced
Daughters can also be heroic?

– Wang Zhenyi

Nothing says trouble like a woman in pants.

If there’s a girl in your life who’s into science – be it astronomy, psychology, or paleontology; even just a little! we’re talking the teeniest, tiniest bit! – you need to introduce her to the work of Rachel Ignotofsky. A graphic artist/illustrator, Ignotofsky uses her art to “make learning exciting.” Her first book, Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, is a mashup of her many passions: art, history, science, and feminism – namely, celebrating the many contributions (many of them overlooked by and even erased from history) women have made to their respective scientific fields. The result is a smart, inspirational book that’s both informative and lovely.

Ada Lovelace. Elizabeth Blackwell. Marie Curie. Rachel Carson. Jane Goodall. Some of the women profiled here have managed, against all odds, to claim their rightful places as household names. But have you heard of Wang Zhenyi, 18th century astronomer, mathematician, and poet? How about Mamie Pipps Clark, a psychologist and civil rights activist who, along with her husband, conducted the infamous (and devastating) Doll Experiment, thus helping to end segregation in public schools? Or Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the Irish astrophysicist who discovered pulsars at the age of 24?

As if these achievements aren’t impressive enough on their own, consider that many of these women did so even when they were barred from higher education, prohibited from publishing papers, or even expected to obey their fathers and husbands, no matter the cost. (Prior to 1974, women couldn’t apply for a line of credit; abortion was not legalized until 1973, and even today it can be difficult for low-income women to access; and marital rape wasn’t recognized as a crime federally until 1993.)

(More below the fold…)