In any book on the history of science, ancient or modern, the majority of names are males. Yet from Hypatia of Alexandria and Lopamudra of Vedic India to a good many in current times, women have contributed to human knowledge and culture, often unobtrusively and under hindering restrictions. Nevertheless, in the 17th and 18th centuries, women were recognized in the world of science. These scholarly papers on various aspects of gender issues in science note that Queen Christina of Sweden was deeply interested in chemistry, Madame du Chatelet translated Newton and argued for vis viva (orbital energy conservation equation), Margaret Cavendish was invited to attend the Royal Society, and E. R. Dashkova directed St. Petersburg Academy. A great many women who played significant roles in the march of science are little known beyond an elite group of scholars. This central thesis deserves greater dissemination. These conference papers light up the seldom-visited corners of science history. It is disconcerting that during the 19th century, women were marginalized in the realm of science more than in the previous eras. If society could regress to male domination so easily, one wonders what the future holds for our supposedly enlightened age.
March 5, 2011