Amazing Accomplishments and Fascinating Lives

Women in Science by Rachel IgnotofskyWomen in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky; Ten Speed Press 2016 127 pages

For much of history, scientific contributions made by women went uncredited. Women were often forced to publish their scientific findings under an alias, or their male colleagues took credit for their research and achievements. As time has progressed, many people have tried right these wrongs and give credit to the women who rightly deserve it and shine a light on their amazing accomplishments. Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky is an accessible, and fascinating introduction into the lives and careers of fifty amazing women in science.

Women in Science profiles fifty women whose contributions span different scientific disciplines, including chemistry, neurology, physics, and astronomy. The profiles are arranged in chronological order by date of birth. Each profile is a two-page spread; on the left is a colorful illustrated portrait of the scientist, and the right features a biographical sketch about her life and work. A quote is featured under each portrait, either from the scientist herself or a quote about her.  In the margins on both pages are miscellaneous illustrated facts, making this a good book for browsing. The miscellaneous facts are often facts that would not fit neatly in the short biographies, including the fact that neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini once gave a lecture in a nightgown after her luggage was lost or that cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, shouted “Hello, sky! Take off your hat, I am on my way!” as she flew into space.

The information in each profile varies, but most feature information about their early childhood, how they became interested in their scientific field of study, challenges they faced as they pursed their dreams, and their accomplishments. These profiles are not exhaustive by any means, but provide enough information to serve as an introduction and perhaps spark further research into the lives of each woman.

Some of the women featured in Women in Science are household names. Many people know of Rachel Carson, Marie Curie, and Jane Goodall. But many of the women profiled are less well known. Wang Zhenyi, born in China in 1768, lived in a world where eclipses were not well understood and considered mysterious. By building a model using mirrors, she was able to  prove her theories about how the moon blocked the sun’s light. Lillian Gilbreth, a psychologist and industrial engineer, was a pioneer in ergonomics, studying the psychology of work, and inventing modern conveniences like the garbage can foot pedal and shelves in refrigerators. The variety in accomplishments that Ignotofsky covers shows aspiring scientists that there are many different fields of study they could pursue.

An illustrated glossary, extensive list of sources, and a detailed index are featured after the profiles, making this a good research tool in addition to being a fun book to browse. While the text is geared towards an audience of aspiring scientists in upper elementary or middle school, Women in Science is the perfect read for anyone who wants to be inspired by scientific achievement through a fun and accessible read.

Elizabeth Weislak is the Youth Services Coordinator for Alamance County Public Libraries. She may be reached at eweislak@alamancelibraries.org