10 Women Who Changed Science and the World

Catherine Whitlock and Rhodri Evans. Diversion, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63576-609-7
Assembling an assortment of short but impressive profiles, immunologist Whitlock and physicist Evans honor female scientific trailblazers. They balance scientific explanations with personalizing details, revealing that physician Virginia Apgar, who invented the score for testing newborns, always carried a pen knife for emergency tracheotomies, and that Rachel Carson, whose work as a biologist greatly inspired modern environmentalism, wrote her first book “accompanied by her much-loved Persian cats Buzzie and Kito.” Per the title, the book shows how its subjects transformed both scientific knowledge (Henrietta Leavitt figured out how to measure the magnitude of stars, neurobiologist Rita Levi-Montalcini discovered nerve growth factor, and Chien-Shiung Wu disproved the law of parity in physics) and the wider world (Gertrude Elion developed successful drugs for cancer, AIDS, transplants, gout, and shingles, and Elsie Widdowson helped create the WWII-era British ration diet). These transformations weren’t always for the best; Lise Meitner, who discovered nuclear fission, hated the resultant A-bomb. Throughout, the authors emphasize the centrality of hard work and resilience. Marie Curie, the first female Nobel Prize winner, isolated radium out of “sheer doggedness,” while chemist Dorothy Hodgkin discovered insulin’s structure despite suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. These minibiographies of women who persisted will move anyone with an avid curiosity about the world. (June)
Reviewed on : 03/19/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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