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The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History…

The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science

by Julie Des Jardins

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I was very interested in learning about female scientists of the past that weren't in my history lessons. This book succeeded in teaching me about the life and accomplishments of some of them in addition to the sexist barriers they had to contend with. It was a bit repetitive and preaching at times, while sending off warning signals at other times. Particularly I was annoyed with the frequent use of "woman scientist" instead of female scientist, it sounds like they were studying women instead of just being women. ( )
  anyaejo | Aug 4, 2013 |
This book really resonated with me, as a PhD candidate in engineering. I'm glad that there have been plenty of women before me to pave the way, and I am always conscious that women still have a long way to go before we can live and work in science in any sort of "post-gender" context.

I've read short biographies about women scientists before, but this one really gave a lot of context about the lives of many female scientists and the pervasive sexism they faced throughout the twentieth century. As the title of the book implies, the Curie Complex both helped and hindered women who attempted to emulate men in order to get by in the scientific academic world.

Sadly, to this date women in science, engineering and other technology fields still feel the pressures of having to be twice as good, having male colleagues second guess us, and wondering if and when childbearing (if desired to begin with) will ever be possible. My undergraduate university had exactly zero female professors in my field of electrical engineering, and it wasn't until grad school that I had a female professor in a subject other than math. And this is in the twenty-first century after many decades of the Equal Opportunity Commission and affirmative action!

While this book certainly made my blood boil reading about the injustices women faced, the author makes a good job not to paint the scientists profiled as martyrs, instead making a more subtle, grander picture of each woman as a professional and individual.

I feel like this book should be required reading for all aspiring or current scientists and engineers, regardless of gender. ( )
2 vote lemontwist | May 18, 2010 |
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To my dad,

my Bella,

and a meeting of the minds
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Some fathers will tell their kids about mythical home run hitters who won the World Series, or of courageous expeditions to Antarctica or the moon.
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This work gives insight into the barriers and successes for women in science, and sheds light on the way our cultural ideas of gender have shaped the profession. Why are the fields of science and technology still considered to be predominantly male professions? This work moves beyond the most common explanations, limited access to professional training, lack of resources, exclusion from social networks of men, to give historical context and unexpected revelations about women's contributions to the sciences. Exploring the lives of Jane Goodall, Rosalind Franklin, Rosalyn Yalow, Barbara McClintock, Rachel Carson, and the women of the Manhattan Project, the author considers their personal and professional stories in relation to their male counterparts, Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, to demonstrate how the gendered culture of science molds the methods, structure, and experience of the work. The book reveals how women scientists have often asked different questions, used different methods, come up with different explanations for phenomena in the natural world, and how they have forever transformed a scientist's role.… (more)

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