Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky, 128 pp, RL 4
The introduction to Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky, begins with a story about Barbara McClintock, a cytogeneticist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1983, some 20 years after she discovered jumping genes, or "transposons." Intelligent, self-confident and willing to break the rules, McClintock persevered, despite the discrimination she experienced at every turn. Of her, Ignotofsky writes,
Barbara McClintock's story is not unique. As long as humanity has asked questions about our world, men and women have looked to the stars, under rocks and through microscopes to find the answers. Although both men and women have the same thirst for knowledge, women have not always been given the same opportunity to explore the answers.
As adult readers in 2017, stories of discrimination against women are not new. But, as an adult reader I do find myself continually surprised that these stories are not that far in our past. Less than one hundred years ago women were barred from universities and other scientific institutions that would have helped tremendously in pursuing their passions. In the early 1960s, astronomer Vera Rubin was the first women to apply for and be awarded telescope time at the Palomar Observatory. There are so many other firsts for women in our recent past that discrimination, past and present, as well as the achievements of women in sciences, and the gender gap that exists, is worth talking about, for ourselves and all the girls who might make the next great scientific discovery, especially if they see the dedicated, brave women who came before them.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World includes four pages that cover lab tools, a timeline, more women in science and statistics in STEM, a glossary, sources and a conclusion that reminds us that the "progress of humankind depends on our continual search for knowledge," and urges readers to "go out and tackle new problems, find your answers, and learn everything you can to make your own discoveries!"
The scientists covered begin in 350 CE with Hypatia, an expert in math and astronomy who was also a teacher of philosophy, and end in 1977, the year that mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani was born. In 2014, Mirzakhani became the first woman to win the Fields Medal, one of the highest honors a mathematician can receive. It is fascinating and educational just paging through Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World and seeing the various fields of science there are, from astronomer, mathematician, physicist and chemist to electrical engineer, biochemist, inventor, volcanologist, molecular biologist, astronaut, rocket scientist, computer programmer and x-ray crystallographer, to name a few.
Ignotofsky's illustrations and palette are fantastic and thoughtful, making Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World serious and playful at once, as well as a very pretty book (is that ok to say?). She provides chunks of information in the borders and a tight biography that hits the important, understandable aspects of each woman's accomplishments and struggles. I do wish that Ignotofsky and publisher 10 Speed Press had chosen a larger trim size for the book, one worthy of the women inside, and a font size that's easier on my eyes, but they did keep the cost very reasonable and hopefully this is a book that will end up in many, many girl's hands!