Title: Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
Author: Rachel Ignotofsky
Release Date: July 26, 2016
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Review Spoilers: N/A
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I certainly didn’t.
Rachel Ignotofsky’s book, Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, is a visually-stunning testament to female contributions to science and the modern world.
Each page of the book is illustrated with a colorful portrait of the scientist, her major contributions to her field, and a one-page hot-take biography of her life, education, and scientific achievements. The book is visually stunning, very conversational and easy to read.
We’ve got your greatest hits: Rosalind Franklin, Ada Lovelace, and Marie Curie, along with deep cuts like Alice Ball, the inventor of a widely used treatment for leprosy, and Rosalyn Yalow, medical physicist who developed the radioimmunoassay technique to screen for hormone-related diseases, and everyone (45 other female scientists) in-between.
I would highly recommend this book for elementary through high school educators as a supplement to the classroom’s history or science textbooks. Throughout my science education, I didn’t even realize how many female and women of color scientists were overlooked, and this book is a fantastic reminder to take notice of scientific contributions that have fundamentally changed the way we live, understand, interact with, and observe the natural world.
One aspect of this book that I really liked in particular was that there was representation for women of color. The author includes female scientists with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds in addition to white or Anglo women.
Another aspect I really enjoyed was the author’s ability to put the scientific work in context: through description of interests and childhood upbringings, the author conveys these women as they are in real life: multi-faceted and complex, each facing unique institutional and personal struggles.
The one downside of this book is that the audience isn’t really clear – the scientific terminology (with helpful definitions provided in the glossary) seems too advanced for a young audience, but the simplicity and brevity of the writing suggests that the book is targeted toward grade-schoolers.
I was hoping for a book that targets a young adult to adult audience, but the one-page-per-scientist hot-take/Cliff-Notes format does lend itself well to casual reading. Since there isn’t any continuity between scientist bios, the book can be put down and picked back up without losing a narrative thread.
The only problem is that some of the bios seemed a little too simplistic, or touched briefly on subjects that made me want to know more. It seemed to assume a base knowledge of certain scientific subjects and at the same time did not go into sufficient depth and detail to suit that base knowledge. Other than that, it’s a great primer for young scientists or history buffs as a starting point to learn more about female contributions to STEM.
Final Thoughts: This book is absolutely lovely – a stellar coffee table book for any history buff or STEM nerd, and a gateway book for further research about these extraordinary women.