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The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science
     

The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science

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by Julie Des Jardins
 

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Why are the fields of science and technology still considered to be predominantly male professions? The Madame Curie Complex moves beyond the most common explanations—limited access to professional training, lack of resources, exclusion from social networks of men—to give historical context and unexpected revelations about women's contributions to the

Overview

Why are the fields of science and technology still considered to be predominantly male professions? The Madame Curie Complex moves beyond the most common explanations—limited access to professional training, lack of resources, exclusion from social networks of men—to give historical context and unexpected revelations about women's contributions to the sciences.

Exploring the lives of Jane Goodall, Rosalind Franklin, Rosalyn Yalow, Barbara McClintock, Rachel Carson, and the women of the Manhattan Project, Julie Des Jardins considers their personal and professional stories in relation to their male counterparts—Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi—to demonstrate how the gendered culture of science molds the methods, structure, and experience of the work. With lively anecdotes and vivid detail, The Madame Curie Complex reveals how women scientists have often asked different questions, used different methods, come up with different explanations for phenomena in the natural world, and how they have forever transformed a scientist's role.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
How women have shaped science and vice versa. Since the early 1900s, Marie Curie (1867-1934), a two-time winner of the Nobel Prize, has been an inspiration for women who aspire to become scientists. Des Jardins (History/Baruch Coll.; Women and the Historical Enterprise in America: Gender, Race, and the Politics of Memory, 1880-1945, 2002) deconstructs the myth of a woman who was apparently "achieving it all: marriage, family, and career," and setting the standard: "To succeed in men's fields, women couldn't be themselves; they had to perform better than men." The author examines the lives of Maria Goeppert Mayer (1906-1972), winner of the Nobel for discovering the shell structure of the nucleus, and Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958), whose seminal work on the structure of DNA anticipated Crick and Watson's "discovery" of the double helix but was largely overlooked. While opportunities for women holding doctorates in science increased during World War II, in its aftermath "the ratios of women to men [employed] in math and physical sciences plummeted to one in twenty-five." Married women who successfully forged careers were expected to make a superhuman effort, while accepting their subordinate role to men, both in the home and in the lab. Rosalyn Sussman Yalow-the winner of the 1977 Nobel in Physiology or Medicine who was dubbed "a Madam Curie from the Bronx" for her groundbreaking work on radioactive tracers-appeared to subordinate herself to physician Sol Berson, her partner until his death in 1972. She deliberately scripted her behavior to accord to the accepted portrait of Marie Curie as the "doer" and her husband Pierre as the "thinker." In her Nobel speech, Yalow spoke about how sexismin science was an obstacle for women to rise above, but she failed to challenge the basic presumptions of sexist science. Des Jardins juxtaposes Yalow's failure with the crucial role played by such luminaries as environmentalist Rachel Carson, primatologist Jane Goodall and biologist Barbara McClintock. A solid combination of a feminist critique and a fascinating discussion of the progression of 20th- and 21st-century science.
From the Publisher

"The story of women in science is an ongoing tale of discrimination and misunderstanding—and of smart females finding ways to use their brains and creativity, despite formidable barriers. Julie Des Jardins has done a wonderful service by assembling their history. Give this book to Lawrence Summers!" —Claudia Dreifus, author of Scientific Conversations: Interviews on Science from the New York Times

"A fascinating book about the lives and struggles of women scientists." —Beverly Whipple, co-author of The G Spot and Other Recent Discoveries About Human Sexuality

"The Madame Curie Complex deconstructs the idea of the quintessential female role models in science." —Barbara Jasny, Deputy Editor for Commentary, Science magazine

"In The Madame Curie Complex, Julie Des Jardins examines the careers of women scientists from Curie to Jane Goodall. Most of them probably won't be familiar to readers, but they should be, not only for their scientific contributions, but for the ways in which their work was marginalized and made more difficult than it had to be." —Bookpage

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558616554
Publisher:
Feminist Press at CUNY, The
Publication date:
03/01/2010
Series:
Women Writing Science
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
1,109,859
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Julie Des Jardins teaches American history at Baruch College, CUNY, and writes on gender and American women. Previously, she was a lecturer at Harvard University, where she was awarded the Alan Heimert Prize for Seminar Teaching. Des Jardins has a PhD in American history from Brown University and has taught the history of gender, race, and feminism since 2000. She is also the author of Women and the Historical Enterprise in America.

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The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
GFio More than 1 year ago
Very well researched! I learned a lot from this book, and will be giving it to my daughter if I ever have one. This book is an inspiration to me. I am currently a college student, pursuing a degree in Neuroscience. To see how women before me have struggled in science is a great encouragement to me, and makes me only strive harder for what I want in life. The author is very objective and fair. She is not some man hating feminist. This is very well thought out research on some of the greatest women in science. The author hardly offers her opinion throughout the book, making The Madame Curie Complex objective as a scientist should write it. Read it and pass it down to your daughters!