cover image Forces of Nature: The Women Who Changed Science

Forces of Nature: The Women Who Changed Science

Anna Reser and Leila McNeill. Frances Lincoln, $30 (272p) ISBN 978-0-711-24897-7

This expansive history from Reser and McNeill, historians and coeditors of Lady Science magazine, sheds light on women’s contributions to science throughout history. For women, they note, participating in science “was a constant clawing at the edges of spaces where they were not permitted,” and the authors survey how women have shaped scientific discovery in ways not captured by traditional historical archives. Starting in antiquity, the authors capture women whose discoveries have been overlooked: women practiced medicine in ancient China, for example, but only men wrote about it and considered women’s practices outdated. The 12th-century mystic Hildegard of Bingen, meanwhile, proposed a cosmological model of the universe that was only taken seriously because she was believed to have “divine vision” and to be “speaking for God.” Maria Cunitz, a 17th-century mathematician and astronomer, is responsible for “the earliest surviving work of science written by a woman,” and Elizabeth Elmy “enlisted botany in her feminist cause” in 1895. The authors cover an impressive amount of ground, and the condensed profiles peppered throughout keep things moving. Full of eye-opening information, this unique perspective on women’s history will enthrall history buffs, science enthusiasts, and feminists. (Apr.)