“Errors are notoriously hard to kill, but an error that ascribes to a man what was actually the work of a woman has more lives than a cat.”
That statement by Hertha Ayerton (1854-1923), the world’s first female electrical engineer, is borne out again and again in Remarkable Minds: 17 More Pioneering Women in Science and Medicine by Pendred Noyce.
Penny is the daughter of Robert Noyce, co-founder of Intel. Penny is the co-founder of the Noyce Foundation, and co-founder of Tumblehome Learning.
Like the earlier book by the same author, Magnificent Minds: 16 Pioneering Women in Science and Medicine, this new volume tells the history of women in technical fields through short biographies that include personal and family details as well as professional accomplishments. This approach offers a deep appreciation of what it meant to break the glass ceiling in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. When Ayerton was nominated to join the Royal Society, legal counsel determined that would be impossible—since she was married she had no legal standing under English common law, and therefore could not become a member.
I used to think that I had a fairly good grasp of the history of science and engineering and many of its most important contributors. However, until I read this book I had not heard of Emilie DuChatelet’s contributions to physics in the 18th century, Elizabeth Fulhame’s discoveries about metals and fabrics that helped lay the chemical foundation of photography, Marietta Blau’s invention for measuring the energy of cosmic rays, or Helen Taussig’s work with Vivien Thomas to develop a successful surgical treatment that saved thousands of “blue babies.”
This series of inspiring stories of women who overcame mountainous barriers to make their mark in science, engineering, medicine and mathematics is important reading for teachers, parents, and anyone who has—or might one day have—an opportunity to encourage a girl to consider a technical profession.
Cary Sneider, PhD
Associate Research Professor
Portland State University
Appointed member of the National Assessment Governing Board
Science Consultant to STEM Next