Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the Worldby Rachel Swaby
Fifty-two inspiring and insightful profiles of history’s brightest female scientists.
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/i>/b>
Fifty-two inspiring and insightful profiles of history’s brightest female scientists.
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.
Journalist Swaby spotlights the accomplishments of 52 female scientists throughout history with pithy biographies organized by their areas of expertise. Inspired by the tone-deaf New York Times obituary for Yvonne Brill, which honored the rocket scientist’s beef stroganoff before her professional accomplishments, Swaby celebrates barrier-breaking titans such as Helen Taussig, the first female president of the American Heart Association; astronaut Sally Ride; and biochemist Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, who inspired the newspaper headline “Nobel Prize for British Wife.” Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper receive praise for their contributions to computer programming, while Jeanne Villepreux-Power and Stephanie Kwolek are praised for inventing the aquarium and Kevlar, respectively. Swaby shows her subjects toiling in secret bedroom labs, damp basements, and janitor’s closets as they faced gender-based discrimination: Mary Putnam Jacobi was admitted to France’s École de Médecine on the condition she “maintain a buffer of empty seats around her at all times”; Rosalind Franklin had her research on DNA structure stolen by male colleagues; and Émilie du Chatelet frantically translated Newton’s Principia into French before the birth of her fourth child. Jewish female scientists faced further adversity during WWII, with several forced to flee their homelands. Swaby has collected an inspirational master list of women in science with accessible explanations of their work. (Apr.)
—New York Times Book Review
“A corrective—a spur to change… Swaby’s subjects are all worthy women who deserve more publicity.”
—Wall Street Journal
“[A] collection of brisk, bright biographies.”
—The Washington Post
“Rachel Swaby’s no-nonsense and needed Headstrong dynamically profiles historically overlooked female visionaries in science, technology, engineering, and math.”
"A woman revolutionized heart surgery. A woman created the standard test given to all newborns to determine their health. A woman was responsible for some of the earliest treatments of previously terminal cancers. We shouldn't need to be reminded of their names, but we do. With a deft touch, Rachel Swaby has assembled an inspiring collection of some of the central figures in twentieth century science. Headstrong is an eye-opening, much-needed exploration of the names history would do well to remember, and Swaby is a masterful guide through their stories."
—Maria Konnikova, Contributing New Yorker writer and New York Times bestselling author of Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
“Rachel Swaby's fine, smart look at women in science is a much-needed corrective to the record—a deftly balanced field guide to the overlooked (Hilde Mangold), the marginalized (Rosalind Franklin), the unexpected (Hedy Lamarr), the pioneering (Ada Lovelace), and the still-controversial (Rachel Carson). Swaby reminds us that science, like the rest of life, is a team sport played by both genders.”
—William Souder, author of On a Farther Shore and Under a Wild Sky
"Headstrong is a true gem. So many amazing women have had an incredible impact on STEM fields, and this book gives clear, concise, easy-to-digest histories of 52 of them—there’s no longer an excuse for not being familiar with our math and science heroines. Thank you, Rachel!"
—Danica McKellar, actress and New York Times bestselling author of Math Doesn’t Suck
“Swaby’s exuberant portrayals make this a compulsively readable title. There is no good reason why every single woman here is not a household name, and now, thankfully, Swaby is helping rectify history’s oversight.”
“Swaby celebrates barrier-breaking titans… [and] has collected an inspiration master list of women in science with accessible explanations of their work.”
“Although many of these women may not be familiar names outside their courses of study, the author's spadework should bring them to the forefront, allowing the general public to learn about the females who pushed beyond sexist attitudes to undertake and achieve success in a male-dominated arena. These short accounts should inspire girls who want to study science to follow their dreams….succinct and informative.”
"[W]omen just don’t get the encouragement they need and deserve to pursue careers in science. Here’s a handy book to help encourage young women to put themselves on the scitech path, with profiles of 52 women from Nobel Prize winners to major innovators and more who have made a difference in science."
Never mind the prominent role particle physicist Fabiola Gianotti played in CERN's discovery of the Higgs boson, women just don't get the encouragement they need and deserve to pursue careers in science. This handy book, with profiles of 52 women from Nobel Prize winners to major science innovators, should help.
Minibiographies of women and their accomplishments in science.Freelance journalist and Longshot magazine senior editor Swaby presents brief histories of 52 women who have been recognized for their accomplishments and contributions to a wide variety of scientific fields, including medicine, biology, genetics, physics and astronomy, among others. Although many of these women may not be familiar names outside their courses of study, the author's spadework should bring them to the forefront, allowing the general public to learn about the females who pushed beyond sexist attitudes to undertake and achieve success in a male-dominated arena. Covering a few hundred years, from the 1600s to the 1950s, Swaby only includes those women whose "life work has already been completed." Many of the women were pioneers, breaking gender barriers to attend famous schools, like France's École de Médecine, in order to pursue their dreams of becoming doctors, scientists and other professionals. There were also those who fought against religious persecution to continue their experiments. Among Swaby's subjects are Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, Stephanie Kwolek, the American who invented Kevlar, and Inge Lehmann, the Dane who discovered Earth's inner core. "By treating women in science like scientists instead of anomalies or wives who moonlight in the lab," writes the author, "we can accelerate the growth of a whole new generation of chemists, archaeologists, and cardiologists while also revealing a whole hidden history of the world." These short accounts should inspire girls who want to study science to follow their dreams and would be useful to teachers who wish to include more information about successful women in their curriculums. Readers may argue over the selections, but Swaby provides succinct and informative narratives on some of the women who have made important contributions to the realm of science.
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Meet the Author
Rachel Swaby is a freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in the Runner's World, Wired, O, The Oprah Magazine, New Yorker.com, Afar, and others. She is a senior editor at Longshot magazine, the editor-in-chief of The Connective: Issue 1, a former research editor at Wired, and a past presenter at Pop-Up magazine. She lives in Brooklyn.
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I only wish this book had been available 20 years ago when my daughter was in middle school. She DID become a microbiologist, but it would have been easier on all of us if we would have had access to such a beautifully written book on women scientists back then! This book is a must read for all those males who think they "know what's best for women" (like some of our Congressmen)!
I'm going to be straight forward. I LOVE this book. I am all for female power. This book is kick ass. Completely empowering and fantastic. It makes you question history and want to conquer the world. It was only the first page where I died laughing: "There have been instances, and I have been such, of females... graduated from school or college excellent scholars, but with underdeveloped ovaries. Later they are married, and were sterile." BAHAHA. I can't even. description "The system never does two tings well at the same time. The muscles [menstruation] and the brain cannot functionate in their best way at the same moment."All I could think of was this: description I think every woman should read this book. Realize your own strength. You don't have to live in a mans shadow. You don't have to have children. You don't have to get married. You are your own self. You can achieve your dreams. Break the stereotype and "expectations" of what the world wants from you. If you like this book then I recommend The Guerrilla Girl's Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art. I love art history and women fighting for recognition. So this is the best of both worlds. I received this book from Blogging for Book for an honest review
I rarely write reviews but I loved this book so much that I just had to do so! I've also just purchased it for my sister-in-law and am planning to send it to my nieces AND my nephews! It's a well-written and engaging book. I think anyone from middle school and up would enjoy it. I knew some of the scientists described but many were new to me. I learned that one of the first people to understand the need to tailor a drug to a specific patient was Jane Wright, an African-American doctor in the 1950s. And who knew that Hedy Lamarr (yes, the actress) was an inventor? This book fills a gap in the history of science as well as in women’s history. Personally, I found these stories inspiring.