Women's History as Scientists
A Guide to the Debates
by Leigh Ann Whaley
August 2003, 252pp, 7x10
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-57607-230-1
$94, £70, 79€, A135
eBook Available: 978-1-57607-742-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

“Biology is destiny” has been a recurring proclamation throughout history. Nowhere has that proclamation been harder fought and exceptions more bitterly won than in the realm of women in science. The accomplishments of women in science have been documented since the time of the ancient Greeks, but the struggle for acceptance has been Herculean and it is far from over.

A comprehensive historical review of the debates surrounding women's contributions and roles in science, with emphasis on women's access to education, training, and professional careers.

This remarkable work illuminates the debates surrounding women’s involvement with science throughout history, covering a broad range of disciplines. Unlike a biographical compendium of great scientists, it examines the question posed throughout history: Are women capable of doing science? Whether people have the right to even ask the question is germane to the debate itself.

The coverage discusses Hypatia, the first female scientist about whom we have information; examines the contradictory behavior of the church in the treatment of women during the medieval era; and covers the 17th century debates over women’s education. It examines women physicians, discusses feminism and science, and delves into why there are so few women in science—even today. The debate that began during the time of Plato and Aristotle continues to this day.


  • Each chapter features a central theme or controversy, such as the Querelle des Femmes, the professionalization of science, and the exclusion of women from medicine
  • Includes a bibliography of primary and secondary sources divided into subsections based on topic, a complete subject index, and illustrations of the major female figures throughout the history of science
Leigh Whaley is assistant professor of history at Acadia University, Wolfville, NS, Canada.


"Recommended."—Choice, February 1, 2004

"This book belongs in most library collections—academic and public. It is essential to understanding the exclusion of women throughout most of history from science, and the reluctance of women to enter science programs . . . lively, well-written, solidly researched . . . helpful to anyone studying women in most facets of science and in many areas of women’s studies. Educators and admissions representatives considering the lack of women in scientifically charged programs will find the book enlightening."—American Reference Books Annual, March 1, 2004

"[Women's History as Scientists] can be read through as a history, yet its excellent index and intuitive organization make it a useful reference tool as well. The text is well documented, making it easy to follow . . . and Whaley presents a balanced view of the various contributions to this debate. This work is recommended for all academic libraries and would be very much at home in a larger public library or a high school library."—Feminist Collections, March 1, 2004

"A strength of this study is that each chapter works well on its own as well as being part of a coherent whole . . . together with the comprehensive guides to further reading provided for each chapter, make the book a valuable teaching aid for students across various disciplines . . . a comprehensive introduction to the debates about women's nature and serves a broad audience . . ."—Women's History Magazine, March 1, 2005
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