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Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries: Second Edition Paperback – April 12, 2001

4.8 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Scientific American

"Recommended reading." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"...a welcome reissue of an important book on the lives and achievements of women science Nobel Laureates." -- History of Physics Newsletter, Fall 2002
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Joseph Henry Press; 2nd Rev ed. edition (April 12, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0309072700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0309072700
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Why so few? This is the question which the author put on the first page of the book. More than 300 scientists have won the Nobel Prize since its establishment,however, only 10 of them are women. Why? Why have so few women won the Nobel Prize in science? Some people might say this small number could be evidence for old prejudices. But the author tried to find a different answer through this book. This book contains stories of 15 women scientists who won the Nobel Prize or had a critical role in Nobel Prize winning works. Although this book takes the style of a biography and also describes all the scientific details quite well, it is neither just a biography nor just a science book for general readers. It is more than both of them. These women scientists had gone through lots of difficulties. All of them had experiences of being rejected from the opportunity of receiving a higher education. Most of them had more than once been mistreated and disregarded of their abilities as well as their works. And some of them, such as Rosalind Franklin, still have not received the full credit which she deserves. One might say that all the scientists who did remarkable works had faced and overcome many kinds of difficulties. But these women had to carry the added burden of being "women scientists". So, as the author pointed, another question should arise when the book is finished. Why so many? Why have so many women challenged themselves with such difficult works in spite of all the obstacles? The answer is simple. They loved science. And, through this book, the readers will find a love and a understanding for these fearless women as well as their lover,science.
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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Why so few?" Sharon McGrayne asks at the beginning of her excellent book on15 women who won, should have won, or helped others win Nobel Prizes in science. The book details some of the barriers women have faced in gaining access to education, getting paid for their work, and having their discoveries taken seriously. At the same time, McGrayne shows how male mentors and friends have at times provided important support and encouragement.

McGrayne has delved into primary sources and conducted interviews to understand these women with their strengths and quirks, and she discusses their scientific work in sufficient depth to give the interested reader a real sense of their accomplishments. The result is a book that brings women of science to life--I now feel I know these women as colleagues and friends. Some of my favorite chapters are those on Emmy Noether, Dorothy Hodgkin, Lise Meitner and Barbara McClintock, all strong women and important scientists.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have just re-read this book (in preparation for an honors course for first year college science students.)
The subjects come to life, and the book is up-lifting. The science is incredibly well explained at a level which is appropriate for non-specialists.

The forward notes the books provides an answer to the question "Why so few?" women Nobelists - and, given their struggles, leads to the question "Why so many?"

The book also offers wonderful examples of the commitment needed and joys received in scientific discovery. I can not recommend this book highly enough!

Please note that "Joseph Henry Press" is the name of a publisher (i.e. a Press- actually that of the National Academy) & not the name of a co-author.
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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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