Sunday 4 February 2024

Book Review - Headstrong 52 Women Who Changed Science - and the World - Rachel Swaby

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the WorldHeadstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World by Rachel Swaby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In 2013, the  New York Times  published an obituary for Yvonne Brill. It began: “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” It wasn’t until the second paragraph that readers discovered why the  Times had devoted several hundred words to her life: Brill was a brilliant rocket scientist who invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites in orbit, and had recently been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Among the questions the obituary—and consequent outcry—prompted were, Who are the role models for today’s female scientists, and where can we find the stories that cast them in their true light?       

Headstrong  delivers a powerful, global, and engaging response. Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby’s vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one’s ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they’re best known. This fascinating tour reveals 52 women at their best—while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats.

Well this isn't my usual sort of read so it took me 9 days to read - even though it's a relatively short book with a lot of pages of notes and bibliography that I obviously didn't wade through.

I did find it interesting and there were many women in the book I hadn't heard of. The common thread running through many of these women's stories was how difficult it was for them to be accepted in their respective fields and how many of them had worked for nothing or a very small pittance. It's definitely better now but I think we are still some way from achieving true equality between men and women not just in science but many fields.

As I said, it was interesting but the pieces on each woman were actually quite short. Sadly I'm not sure how much information I will have retained without having made notes!

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  1. It sounds a very interesting book. Possibly one that every school needs to have for young girls to dip into.

    1. It was definitely interesting but not sure how much of it I've retained - I should have made notes lol


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