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Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries Paperback – September, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 451 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington Pub Corp (T); Rev Sub edition (September 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806520256
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806520254
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Only nine of the more than 300 Nobel prizes awarded in science since 1901 have been won by women, notes science writer Bertsch as she sets the context for the biographical essays that follow. Examining the careers and lives of 14 women scientists "who either won a Nobel Prize or played a crucial role in a Nobel winning project," she movingly depicts their battles against gender discrimination for recognition and respect and she describes the self-conflict about their roles. Subjects range from Marie Curie (1867-1934) to such contemporaries as Rosalyn Yalow, awarded a Nobel Prize in 1977 for her work as a medical physicist, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell, an astrophysicist credited, at the age of 24, with the 1968 discovery of pulsars, who made large personal sacrifices for her science. Bertsch introduces the small pantheon of women leaders in science whose careers and words offer advice and inspiration, if small comfort, to women in science today. Photos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

As the subtitle suggests, this book describes the lives and struggles of 14 women who were either awarded the Nobel Prize or played a critical part in the work of the men who received it. And the "struggles" were horrendous. From the nonadmission policies of most graduate schools, even as late as 1960, to the restrictive admission policies even at the undergraduate level, simply obtaining an adequate education in the sciences was a battle for women. And, with few exceptions, most of them had to take unpaid or lowly paid jobs if they wanted to do science. Tenured positions might be offered after the Nobel Prize was won! Bertsch is a former newspaper reporter, and her background is reflected in her terse, dramatic treatment of each woman. There is an excellent set of references, as well as a thoughtful introduction and conclusion. At the outset, Bertsch asks "Why so few?"--at the conclusion, given the trials and tribulations, one wonders how so many endured. Highly recommended for all science collections.
- Hilary D. Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., Livermore, Cal.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Sharon Bertsch McGrayne is the author of critically-acclaimed books about scientific discoveries and the scientists who make them. She is interested in exploring the cutting-edge connection between social issues and scientific progress--and in making the science clear, interesting and accurate for non-specialists.

Her latest book, The Theory That Would Not Die, tells how an 18th century approach to assessing evidence was vilified for much of the 20th century before--in an overnight sea change--it permeated our modern lives.

In a full-page review in the New York Times Book Review, John Allen Paulos wrote, "If you're not thinking like a Bayesian, perhaps you should be."

Editor's Choice, New York Times Book Review.

"I recently finished reading The Theory That Would Not Die. ... Bayes's rule is a statistical theory that has a long and interesting history. It is important in decision making -- how tightly should you hold on to your view and how much should you update your view based on the new information that's coming in. We intuitively use Bayes's rule every day ... "-- Alan B. Krueger, chair of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers. Jan. 1, 2012, New York Times.

Nature called it, "A rollicking tale of the triumph of a powerful mathematical tool. ... An impressively researched history of Bayes' theorem."

"An example of the best in historical scientific journalism: it captures the main threads of the science while going much further on the human side of the story... This is a remarkable achievement. It taught me things, and it made me think. ... This book succeeds gloriously, by never losing sight of the story, and it's a wonderful story, one that desperately deserved to be told." --Robert E. Kass, Carnegie Mellon University

"McGrayne ... articulates difficult ideas in a way that the general public can understand and appreciate. ... I highly recommend it to anyone interested in science, history, and the evolution of a theorem over time. The book read as if it were a love story -- for an algorithm that grew up neglected, periodically taken out for a ride but mostly sitting home alone, until at long last, it finally found its rightful place of respect and appreciation in the world." --IEEE Computing Now.

The Boston Globe calls it "an intellectual romp, ... a masterfully researched tale of human struggle and accomplishment, and it renders perplexing mathematical debates digestible and vivid for even the most lay of audiences."

"Engaging. ... Readers will be amazed at the impact that Bayes' rule has had in diverse fields, as well as by its rejection by too many statisticians. ... I was brought up, statistically speaking, as what is called a frequentist... But reading McGrayne's book has made me determined to try, once again, to master the intricacies of Bayesian statisics. I am confident that other readers will feel the same." -- The Lancet.

"As significant in our times as the Darwinian theory of natural selection..., yet Bayes' Rule is almost unknown to a wide segment of the educated general public." -- Times Literary Supplement.

"McGrayne is such a good writer that the makes this obscure battle gripping for the general reader. [She writes] with great clarity and wit." Engineering and Technology Magazine.

James Berger, Arts & Sciences Professor of Statistics, Duke University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences wrote, "A book simply highlighting the astonishing 200 year controversy over Bayesian analysis would have been highly welcome. This book does so much more, however, uncovering the almost secret role of Bayesian analysis in a stunning series of the most important developments of the twentieth century. What a revelation and what a delightful read!"

"A Statistical Thriller... McGrayne's tale has everything you would expect of a modern-day thriller. Espionage, nuclear warfare and cold war paranoia all feature... a host of colourful characters and their bitter rivalries carry the tale... McGrayne's writing is luminous. ... To have crafted a page-turner out of the history of statistics is an impressive feat. If only lectures at university had been this racy."
-- NewScientist

"A compelling and entertaining fusion of history, theory and biography... McGrayne is adept at explaining abstruse mathematics in layperson's language."
-- Sunday London Times

"Approachable and engrossing. ... One of the 100 best holiday reads."
-- Sunday London Times

"A book simply highlighting the astonishing 200 year controversy over Bayesian analysis would have been highly welcome. This book does so much more, however, uncovering the almost secret role of Bayesian analysis in a stunning series of the most important developments of the twentieth century. What a revelation and what a delightful read!"
--James Berger, Arts & Sciences Professor of Statistics, Duke University, and member, National Academy of Sciences

"We now know how to think rationally about our uncertain world. This book describes in vivid prose, accessible to the lay person, the development of Bayes' rule over more than two hundred years from an idea to its widespread acceptance in practice."
--Dennis Lindley, author of Understanding Uncertainty

"Many gripping and occasionally startling stories that grace Sharon Bertsch McGrayne's highly enjoyable new history of Bayesian inference. ... Actuaries play a particular notable role in McGrayne's hidden history of 20th century Bayes."
--Contingencies

"Well known in statistical circles, Bayes's Theorem was first given in a posthumous paper by the English clergyman Thomas Bayes in the mid-eighteenth century. McGrayne provides a fascinating account of the modern use of this result in matters as diverse as cryptography, assurance, the investigation of the connection between smoking and cancer, RAND, the identification of the author of certain papers in The Federalist, election forecasting and the search for a missing H-bomb. The general reader will enjoy her easy style and the way in which she has successfully illustrated the use of a result of prime importance in scientific work."
--Andrew I. Dale, author of A History of Inverse Probability From Thomas Bayes to Karl Pearson and Most Honorable Remembrance: The Life and Work of Thomas Bayes

"Very compelling, ... very interesting reading."
-Jose Bernardo, Valencia List

"Makes the theory come alive, ... gives a voice to the scores of famous and non-famous people and data who contributed, for good or for worse."
-Significance Magazine

"Lively, engaging historical account... Compelling, fast-moving prose. ... Recommended."
-Choice

"McGrayne's book is not a textbook and does not attempt to teach Bayesian inferential techniques. Rather, McGrayne offers a very thorough, informative, and often entertaining (in our humble opinion) discussion of the Bayesian perspective... Strongly recommended [for students] as it provides the theoretical underpinnings of the Bayesian perspective and shows how Bayesianism has been applied to real world inferential / statistical problems."
-- Jon Starkweather, RSS Matters.

"An intellectual romp ... a masterfully researched tale of human struggle and accomplishment, and it renders perplexing mathematical debates digestible and vivid for even the most lay of audiences. Acknowledging ignorance is the first step toward knowledge, yes, and when we wed our ignorance with our better instincts we often find the best possible second step."
-- The Boston Globe.

Wiskunde die je laat leren van je onwetendheid.
-- NRC Handelsblad.

"McGrayne explains [it] beautifully. ... Top holiday reading."
-- The Australian.

OTHER BOOKS BY McGRAYNE

McGrayne's first book dealt with changing patterns of discrimination faced by leading women scientists during the 20th century. Another book portrayed a group of chemists and the interplay between science, the chemical industry, the public's love of creature comforts, and the environment.

McGrayne's work has been featured on the Charley Rose Show and reviewed in Nature, Physics Today, Significance, the Washington Post, Ms., JAMA, Chemistry and Engineering News (C&EN), New Scientist, American Scientist, PopularMechanics.com, and the like. She has appeared on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Science Friday and been invited to speak at more than twenty universities here and in Europe, at national laboratories such as Argonne National Laboratory and the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), and at the Centennial meeting of the American Physical Society.

She has written for Science, Scientific American, Discover Magazine, Isis, American Physical Society News, The Times Higher Education Supplement, and Notable American Women. Excerpts of her books have appeared in The Chemical Educator, The Physics Teacher, and Chemical Heritage Foundation Magazine. Nobel Prize Women in Science is used extensively in college courses in the United States and Europe. The National Academy of Sciences presented the Empress of Japan with a copy of the book and now publishes it.

McGrayne is a former prize-winning journalist for Scripps-Howard, Crain's, Gannett, and other newspapers and a former editor and co-author of extensive articles about physics for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. A graduate of Swarthmore College, she lives in Seattle, Washington.



Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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She really enjoyed the book and recommends it to anyone interested in the subject.
Porphyrogenitos
The story of Meitner's having to flee Nazi Germany is interwoven into the scientific story to reinforce this wonderful account.
Eric R. Scerri
The science is incredibly well explained at a level which is appropriate for non-specialists.
M. S. Menzin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By tflapper@ozemail.com.au on March 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
The book is a little heavy to read but is very absorbing. Both the science and personal attributes of the women reviewed are documented in a matter-of-fact manner with few distracting adjectives. You can easily read about one or all of the women and cross referencing of events is well done. I found it enthusing whilst doing a PhD in an area of few women. I have no struggle compared to the trials relayed in this book. Not for a light reader.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By W Boudville HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
McGrayne chronicles the discrimination faced by female scientists in the 20th century. Even by those who would eventually achieve the highest prize of the Nobel. She also includes biographies of a few women who never won the Nobel, but were acknowledged later by many to have merited it. Lise Meitner, of course. She was doubly disadvantaged. Being female and Jewish in Germany during the 1920s and 30s. The story of how Otto Hahn won the Physics Nobel shortly after World War 2 for work that he did jointly with her is well known to physicists.

Jocelyn Bell's work on pulsars is also described. Bell's advisor would later garner the Nobel for this, though Bell made the crucial observations and deductions from those.

Both these chapters can be exercises in frustration to a reader. Injustices that were never remedied. Though Bell is still alive, and so there is a chance that the Nobel committe might redress this oversight.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Remarkable book. The lives and challenges of these women are faithfully described, not only detailing their careers but their personalities as well. These women become more than names mentioned in textbooks, and these accounts of their lives allow them to become inspiring women. The accounts have more science than an average reader would probably like (as a bio major, I loved the detail), but I can guarantee they will find this book interesting all the same. I especially liked the way the author corrected the misconception of Rosalind Franklin as given through Dr. James Watson's account, "The Double Helix."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eric R. Scerri on January 21, 2012
Format: Paperback
Science historian Sharon McGrayne has a way of capturing the reader's attention in the first few sentences. Take her chapter on Lise Meitner, who interestingly did not win a Nobel Prize but should have done and is therefore rightly included in this book.

Here is how McGrayne opens her chapter, "Using a private entrance, Lise Meitner entered her basement laboratory_and stayed there. A former carpentry shop, it was the only room in Berlin's chemistry institute that she was permitted to enter. No females_except, of course, cleaning women_were allowed upstairs with the men... "

In this chapter we learn of Meitner's childhood and upbringing, and her struggle to become a woman physicist against all odds. We hear about her attending lectures by Boltzmann and later Planck who became one of her supporters. Meitner's biggest discovery was to explain the mechanism of nuclear fission or perhaps to explain to Hahn and Strassmann that fission was actually taking place since they could not understand why their own bombardment of a uranium nucleus should produce something so much smaller as a barium nucleus. This was because up to that point radioactivity had only produced changes in atomic number of one or two units.

The story of Meitner's having to flee Nazi Germany is interwoven into the scientific story to reinforce this wonderful account.
The reason why Meitner was ignored by the Nobel Prize people is examined as is Hahn's refusal to attribute any significance to her contribution. This is history of science at its best with the science and human story receiving equal attention and just at the right pace.

Eric Scerri
author of "The Periodic Table, Its Story and Its Significance" and "A Very Short Introduction to the Periodic Table".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Batcaver on October 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
I have read this book off and on over the past ten years. As an women who has worked in IT for 25 years in a mostly male dominated profession, this is a must read. There are so many questions still unanswered regarding women in technical and scientific professions, however reading these women's stories about their accomplishments, regrets and passion for their work is absolutely inspiring. I will pass this book to my two girls as they get older, in hopes of inspiring them that they can and should forge ahead no matter what.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bradley Wooden on October 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
I was enthralled by this delightful, healing, and eye opening crediting over the wonder works of scientific endeavor made by woman--unsung heroines who did not flinch one bit from their true calling, what for all the drowning out and dumbing down of class ostracism inundating them and their sisters in their times. These Ladies are the truest measure of what is called a benchmark in the progress of humanity to wake up and rise to The Greatest Challenge: to free the mind, the spirit, the yoke of history's circumstance, to unite us in peace, recognition, respect, and unqualified defference to all who carry forth the Light. From my heart, Thank You Sharon Bertsch McGrayne! And for those for whom it is easier to quip, 'a woman's place is in the home, raising children and so forth....' I'll just add, we got BILLIONS of 'em.
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