I Died for Beauty: Dorothy Wrinch and the Cultures of Science

I Died for Beauty: Dorothy Wrinch and the Cultures of Science

by Marjorie Senechal


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In the vein of A Beautiful Mind, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, and Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, this volume tells the poignant story of the brilliant, colorful, controversial mathematician named Dorothy Wrinch.

Drawing on her own personal and professional relationship with Wrinch and archives in the United States, Canada, and England, Marjorie Senechal explores the life and work of this provocative, scintillating mind. Senechal portrays a woman who was learned, restless, imperious, exacting, critical, witty, and kind. A young disciple of Bertrand Russell while at Cambridge, the first women to receive a doctor of science degree from Oxford University, Wrinch's contributions to mathematical physics, philosophy, probability theory, genetics, protein structure, and crystallography were anything but inconsequential. But Wrinch, a complicated and ultimately tragic figure, is remembered today for her much publicized feud with Linus Pauling over the molecular architecture of proteins. Pauling ultimately won that bitter battle. Yet, Senechal reminds us, some of the giants of mid-century science—including Niels Bohr, Irving Langmuir, D'Arcy Thompson, Harold Urey, and David Harker—took Wrinch's side in the feud. What accounts for her vast if now-forgotten influence? What did these renowned thinkers, in such different fields, hope her model might explain?

Senechal presents a sympathetic portrait of the life and work of a luminous but tragically flawed character. At the same time, she illuminates the subtler prejudices Wrinch faced as a feisty woman, profound culture clashes between scientific disciplines, ever-changing notions of symmetry and pattern in science, and the puzzling roles of beauty and truth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199732593
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 12/03/2012
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Marjorie Senechal is the Louise Wolff Kahn Professor Emerita in Mathematics and History of Science and Technology, Smith College, and Co-Editor of The Mathematical Intelligencer.

Table of Contents

Part I Dorothy Wrinch
Chapter 1. Prologue
Chapter 2. Culture clash at Cold Spring Harbor
Chapter 3. Symmetry Festival
Chapter 4. Dot
Part II Logics
Chapter 5. The Wrangler
Chapter 6. Dear Mr. Russell
Chapter 7. The Summation of Pleasures
Chapter 8. Scientific method
Part III Biology in Transition
Chapter 9. The Spicules of Sponges
Chapter 10. Homes are Hell
Chapter 11. Metamorphoses
Chapter 12. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest
Notes and References for Part III
Part IV Proteins and the Imagination
Chapter 13. Hornet Buzz
Chapter 14. The Cyclol Model
Chapter 15. What Is She Doing Here?
Chapter 16. "Linus and Dorothy," the Opera, with Talkback
Part V The Rosetta Stone of the Solid State
Chapter 17. Crystals
Chapter 18. X-rays and Insulin
Chapter 19. Structure factors
Chapter 20. Amherst College Wife
Part VI I Died for Beauty
Chapter 21. The Sequel
Chapter 22. Strange Doings at Sandoz
Chapter 23. Swan Song
Chapter 24. Epilogue
Cast of Characters
Notes and References

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