Call Number
Material Type
Elmira - Steele Memorial Library 1 509.252 SWA Adult NonFiction Book

On Order



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

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?

Headstrong 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.

Author Notes

Rachel Swaby is a freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in Wired; O, The Oprah Magazine; NewYorker.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. www.rachelswaby.com

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

In the wake of the disrespectful 2013 New York Times obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill, in which her beef stroganoff took top billing over her scientific achievements, journalist Swaby was inspired to seek out many other women scientists who might have likewise been overlooked or carelessly dismissed. She dug deeply in international archives to find innovators and inventors across the scientific spectrum, and the result is a group of achievers who excelled in fields ranging from physics to biology, astronomy, and engineering. Swaby covers more than 350 years in her survey, and her short biographies give readers just enough information to make them eager for more. Alice Hamilton's work on poisons in the workplace Grace Hopper's manual on computer programming Hertha Ayrton on arc lighting These are truly fascinating women with a wide range of experiences both personal and professional, and Swaby's exuberant portrayals make this a compulsively readable title. There is no good reason why every single woman here is not a household name, and now, thankfully, Swaby is helping rectify history's oversight.--Mondor, Colleen Copyright 2015 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Swaby spotlights the accomplishments of 52 female scientists throughout history with pithy biographies organized by their areas of expertise. Inspired by the tone-deaf New York Times obituary for Yvonne Brill, which honored the rocket scientist's beef stroganoff before her professional accomplishments, Swaby celebrates barrier-breaking titans such as Helen Taussig, the first female president of the American Heart Association; astronaut Sally Ride; and biochemist Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, who inspired the newspaper headline "Nobel Prize for British Wife." Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper receive praise for their contributions to computer programming, while Jeanne Villepreux-Power and Stephanie Kwolek are praised for inventing the aquarium and Kevlar, respectively. Swaby shows her subjects toiling in secret bedroom labs, damp basements, and janitor's closets as they faced gender-based discrimination: Mary Putnam Jacobi was admitted to France's École de Médecine on the condition she "maintain a buffer of empty seats around her at all times"; Rosalind Franklin had her research on DNA structure stolen by male colleagues; and Émilie du Chatelet frantically translated Newton's Principia into French before the birth of her fourth child. Jewish female scientists faced further adversity during WWII, with several forced to flee their homelands. Swaby has collected an inspirational master list of women in science with accessible explanations of their work. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Freelance journalist Swaby profiles 52 significant women scientists across a range of fields: astronomy, atmospheric sciences, chemistry, genetics, geology, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, and physics. Her ambition to counter the lack of awareness about these women and inspire the next generation of female scientists is admirable. Most of those chosen will not surprise scholars: for example, Ellen Swallow Richards, Rachel Carson, Maria Mitchell, Barbara McClintock. Other entries, such as the piece on Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr, may surprise some readers. During World War II, Lamarr secured a patent for a system to thwart listening in on important war communications, which led to the development of spread-spectrum or frequency-hopping communication technology. There are no contemporary scientists included, and Swaby candidly admits that the book lacks diversity since "opportunities for white women in science opened up before they did for women of color." Swaby's collection joins the ranks of other works published in the last decade intended to uncover contributions women have made in the sciences and technology, such as George D. Morgan's Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America's First Female Rocket Scientist or Blazing the Trail: Essays by Leading Women in Science. Verdict While the entries here don't represent deep exploration of these women's contributions or add significantly new analysis, Swaby's relatively informal writing style creates readable stories that will introduce these headstrong women to a wider audience. Recommended for public libraries and smaller academic libraries with gaps in the history of women in science.-Faye Chadwell, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Journalist Swaby shares the stories of 52 female scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to make at least two points: that women have long been active in these fields and that their achievements are incidental to their femininity and vice versa. Brief accounts of the women's lives and chief claims to fame emphasize the 20th century--although no subjects are living--and Great Britain and the US. Swaby draws from names familiar to anyone with a previous interest in the history of women in science (such as Virginia Apgar, Barbara McClintock, Émilie du Châtelet, Maria Mitchell, and Grace Hopper) as well as women whose accomplishments are less well known (including Gerty Radnitz Cori, Tilly Edinger, Mary Cartwright, and Stephanie Kwolek). The short, readable sections provide a useful means for introducing high school students and others to the breadth and depth of the insights made by women. A few sources are listed for each person to help readers start taking their research further. Online databases and websites offer numerous options for next steps; see, in particular, the Resources section of the Women's Caucus of the History of Science Society website (http://hsswc.weebly.com/). Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates, secondary school students, general readers. --Amy K. Ackerberg-Hastings, University of Maryland University College

Table of Contents

Introductionp. xi
Mary Putnam Jacobi (1842-1906)p. 3
Anna Wessels Williams (1863-1954)p. 7
Alice Ball (1892-1916)p. 11
Gerry Radnitz Cori (1896-1957)p. 14
Helen Taussig (1898-1986)p. 19
Elsie Widdowson (1906-2000)p. 23
Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)p. 27
Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1910-1994)p. 32
Gertrude Belle Elion (1918-1999)p. 36
Jane Wright (1919-2013)p. 41
Biology and the Environment
Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)p. 47
Jeanne Villepreux-Power (1794-1871)p. 51
Mary Anning (1799-1847)p. 54
Ellen Swallow Richards. (1842-1911)p. 57
Alice Hamilton (1869-1970)p. 61
Alice Evans (1881-1975)p. 67
Tilly Edinger (1897-1967)p. 70
Rachel Carson (1907-1964)p. 75
Ruth Patrick (1907-2013)p. 80
Genetics and Development
Nettie Stevens (1861-1912)p. 85
Hilde Mangold (1898-1924)p. 88
Charlotte Auerbach (1899-1994)p. 91
Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)p. 95
Salome Gluecksohn Waeisch (1907-2007)p. 100
Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012)p. 104
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)p. 108
Anne McLaren (1927-2007)p. 113
Lynn Margulis (1938-2011)p. 116
Émilie du Châtelet (1706-1749)p. 121
Lise Meitner (1878-1968)p. 125
Irene Joliot-Curie (1897-1956)p. 130
Maria Goeppert Mayer (1906-1972)p. 135
Marguerite Perey (1909-1975)p. 139
Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997)p. 143
Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921-2011)p. 147
Earth and Stars
Maria Mitchell (1818-1889)p. 155
Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941)p. 158
Inge Lehmann (1888-1993)p. 161
Marie Tharp (1920-2006)p. 165
Yvonne Brill (1924-2013)p. 169
Sally Ride (1951-2012)p. 173
Math and Technology
Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799)p. 179
Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)p. 182
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)p. 186
Sophie Kowalevski (1850-1891)p. 189
Emmy Noether (1882-1935)p. 194
Mary Cartwright (1900-1998)p. 199
Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992)p. 203
Hertha Ayrton (1854-1923)p. 209
Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000)p. 213
Ruth Benerito (1916-2013)p. 219
Stephanie Kwolek (1923-2014)p. 222
Acknowledgmentsp. 225
Notesp. 227
Bibliographyp. 245
Indexp. 265

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