The first literature appeared some 4,000 years ago. Stone and bone records stretch back further than those first alphabets, but give us no names. The very first technical name was male - Imhotep - the architect of the first pyramid. The second technical name was female - En Hedu'Anna (c.2354 BCE). Certainly women were questioners and thinkers long before that. Most myths and religions place the beginnings of agriculture, of laws, of civilization, of mathematics, of calendars, time keeping and medicine into the hands of women. The names of these goddesses may not be realized as actual people, but they must have been real women, else why preserve the mythos?
Dr. Gerda Lerner said in her address as the new president of the Organization of American Historians.
"If the bringing of women - half the human race - into the center of historical inquiry poses a formidable challenge to historical scholarship, it also offers sustaining energy and a source of strength."
Gerder Lerner, 1982, Journal of American History, 69, 1, pages 7-20
Women contributed. They contributed in all the ways there are to the technical advancement of humanity. They held the same burdens of scholarship as the men did, and they accomplished just as much. These women left a remarkable legacy. They were as resourceful and passionate about their work as any scientist today, and certainly as creative. Their stories are a clear light to the future.
This twentieth century definition of science is useful for today, but not
for yesterday. We must widen the definition as we look back in time. For
example, the separation into disciplines occurred only in the last few
centuries. The earlier natural philosopher combined all these
into one. The Ph.D. originally meant a natural philosopher whose scholarly
endeavors covered the seven liberal arts - grammar, rhetoric, logic,
arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. So a scientist, by this
definition, will appear in poetry, in school lists, in text books, letters
natural philosophy = grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music,
natural philosophy = grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy
We include few physicians. Since astronomy and mathematics were the earliest scholarly arts, names from the history of astronomy and mathematics are easier to find than names from other areas. Astronomy and mathematics marched together through the centuries, not really breaking apart until the end of the 19th century. (The art of astrology developed from the practical science of astronomy several thousand years after the first calendars were developed.) Physics was more a trade skill than a scholar's tool until the 19th century. So to find the names of technical women, one needs to look at inventors and tool makers as well as university scholars. Since women have been physicians in great numbers for as long as there have been women, we omit them. Midwifery was almost exclusively run by women until the 19th century. So omitting physicians from this list is only for convenience. There are so many of them!
However, there is something that reaches outside our twentieth century glasses. Successful science works - repeatedly. The test of science is whether the work can be tested, repeated and used by others. The common attributes of a scientist are luck, education, ability and sweat. Both women and men share these attributes. There is no gender lurking in this definition. None.
There are many names on this list, many of which duplicate names on others' lists, and some that do not. This tells me that we all have just opened the treasure box. There must be many, many more. These women contributed much. They had the entire universe to play with, to study and to enjoy. They were not left out of this great human experience. This is a small piece of their history.
THIS LIST EMPHASIZES WOMEN OF THE PAST - MAINLY PRE-20TH CENTURY.
PLEASE SEND US MORE NAMES, MORE INFORMATION, MORE STORIES ABOUT THESE
PLEASE SEND US MORE NAMES, MORE INFORMATION, MORE STORIES ABOUT THESE WOMEN.
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