Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World

by Rachel Swaby


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Fifty-two inspiring and insightful profiles of history’s brightest female scientists.

“Rachel Swaby’s no-nonsense and needed Headstrong dynamically profiles historically overlooked female visionaries in science, technology, engineering, and math.”—Elle

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?      

 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 52 women at their best—while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553446791
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/07/2015
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 170,189
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Rachel Swaby is a freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in the Runner's WorldWiredO, 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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Mary Putnam Jacobi

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Copyright © 2015 Rachel Swaby.
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Table of Contents

Introduction xi


Mary Putnam Jacobi (1842-1906) 3

Anna Wessels Williams (1863-1954) 7

Alice Ball (1892-1916) 11

Gerry Radnitz Cori (1896-1957) 14

Helen Taussig (1898-1986) 19

Elsie Widdowson (1906-2000) 23

Virginia Apgar (1909-1974) 27

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1910-1994) 32

Gertrude Belle Elion (1918-1999) 36

Jane Wright (1919-2013) 41

Biology and the Environment

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) 47

Jeanne Villepreux-Power (1794-1871) 51

Mary Anning (1799-1847) 54

Ellen Swallow Richards. (1842-1911) 57

Alice Hamilton (1869-1970) 61

Alice Evans (1881-1975) 67

Tilly Edinger (1897-1967) 70

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) 75

Ruth Patrick (1907-2013) 80

Genetics and Development

Nettie Stevens (1861-1912) 85

Hilde Mangold (1898-1924) 88

Charlotte Auerbach (1899-1994) 91

Barbara McClintock (1902-1992) 95

Salome Gluecksohn Waeisch (1907-2007) 100

Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012) 104

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) 108

Anne McLaren (1927-2007) 113

Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) 116


Émilie du Châtelet (1706-1749) 121

Lise Meitner (1878-1968) 125

Irene Joliot-Curie (1897-1956) 130

Maria Goeppert Mayer (1906-1972) 135

Marguerite Perey (1909-1975) 139

Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) 143

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921-2011) 147

Earth and Stars

Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) 155

Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941) 158

Inge Lehmann (1888-1993) 161

Marie Tharp (1920-2006) 165

Yvonne Brill (1924-2013) 169

Sally Ride (1951-2012) 173

Math and Technology

Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799) 179

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) 182

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) 186

Sophie Kowalevski (1850-1891) 189

Emmy Noether (1882-1935) 194

Mary Cartwright (1900-1998) 199

Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992) 203


Hertha Ayrton (1854-1923) 209

Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) 213

Ruth Benerito (1916-2013) 219

Stephanie Kwolek (1923-2014) 222

Acknowledgments 225

Notes 227

Bibliography 245

Index 265

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