by Laurie Lawlor
64 pages; ages 8-12
Holiday House, 2017
“Imagine being a highly trained astronomer who’s forbidden to look through a state-of-the-art telescope,” writes Laurie Lawler. Or that you’re an accomplished underwater cartographer not allowed on a research vessel, or a chemist not allowed to work in a research lab.
Not because you don’t have the skills – but only because you’re a woman. We’re not talking about women in science hundreds of years ago, but within our lifetime. Absurd, right? And yet, Lawlor has compiled half a dozen stories of real scientists who had to fight against gender discrimination to do their research. Her tales include:
- Eugenie Clark, known as the “shark lady” – an oceanographer who dives into the sea to study sharks and other creatures living in the deep. Her research helped people understand that sharks can learn. Scientist, explorer, Clark authored more than 175 scholarly and popular science articles and been a champion of ocean conservation.
- Gertrude Elion shares the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology & Medicine with George Hitchings and Sir James Black. Her research contributes to drug treatment for cancers. But when she graduated in 1937 with high honors in chemistry, she was turned away from research labs because hiring a woman would be “too distracting”.
- Katherine Coleman Johnson served as a human “computer”, one of a team of mathematicians who helped send Alan B. Shepard, Jr. into orbit around Earth. As an African American woman and mathematician, she faced many obstacles working in the brand new space agency, whose technical staff was mostly white and male. In 2015, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- Marie Tharp mapped underwater mountains, valleys, ridges, and plains. She was one of the first scientists to notice evidence for plate tectonics. Other researchers discounted her thoughts as “wacky ideas” and “girl talk”, but eventually she convinced them. She worked with another researcher to create the world ocean floor map.
- Florence Hawley Ellis wanted to be an archeologist, but men joked that she’d never find workers willing to follow her into the field. In addition to digging up artifacts, she collected information from Pueblo and Navajo elders about customs, stories, social organizations and more. She also noticed historical evidence of droughts and ongoing perils of climate change in the Southwest.
- Eleanor Margaret Burbidge is an astronomer who hunts deep-space objects. She viewed the first image of a quasar that was billions of light years from Earth. But in the early years of her career, institutes denied women access to telescopes because the living quarters were meant to be places where male astronomers wouldn’t be bothered by wives or family. She finagled a way to live off campus and use the telescope and has contributed greatly to the field of astronomy.
The book is filled with photos, and complemented with a glossary where you can quickly look up “quasar”.
It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
Copyright © 2017 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.