Thursday, March 08, 2018

Sex in the citadel of science

Happy Women's Day!  Celebrate by listening to the fabulous Dr. Raychelle Burks bring the stories of three women chemists you might never have heard of to life.  Mary Sherman Morgan — who absolutely was a rocket scientist. Alice Ball, who developed the first effective treatment for leprosy, ending the banishment of people with leprosy in Hawai'i to Molokai (and died tragically young) and Rachel Lloyd (first American woman to earn a PhD in chemistry).

They are all fascinating chemists, but I was intrigued by Lloyd, who earned her degree very close to Bryn Mawr College's founding.  Given that she was in Philadelphia, I wondered why she hadn't come here, but went instead to Zurich, where she earned her degree in 1887.  Turns out that she applied to the newly founded Bryn Mawr in 1884 to be a chemistry professor, but the college declined to hire her, at least in part because she didn't have a doctorate. She joined the faculty at University of Nebraska, Lincoln after getting her doctorate.  Bryn Mawr wouldn't hire a woman chemistry professor for almost another 100 years (Geri Richmond, now at University of Oregon, and this year's winner of the American Chemical Society's highest honor, the Priestley Medal). The second woman hired onto the tenure track in chemistry at Bryn Mawr - was me, in 1986.  The department is now the only PhD granting chemistry department in the country where more than 1/2 the tenured faculty are women.

I wrote a piece on women chemists who had their hands on the inner working of the atom for Nature Chemistry that will come out at the end of the month!  Arguing that perhaps it is not so much that women don't or didn't do science, it's that we just ignore their contributions: past and present, but hopefully not in the future.

And then there's this piece about how we literally build women out of science. Literally, I do mean literally. 

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