Thursday, January 12, 2017

Headstrong - Rachel Swaby

Title: Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science - and the World
Author: Rachel Swaby
Publisher: Broadway Books, 2015 (Paperback)
Length: 263 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction
Started: January 6, 2017
Finished: January 11, 2017

From the back cover:

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 New York 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 she had recently been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Among the questions the obituary - and subsequent 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 these fifty-two women at their best - while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats.

This was one of my Christmas presents that I finally got around to reading. This is a great nonfiction title that classrooms should have, especially for those trying to encourage girls to pursue a future in the STEM fields.

The author had a few main principles in mind when writing this book. She wanted to explore women whose life's work has already been completed, so she didn't include any important female scientists that are still living. She also doesn't include Marie Curie, because she's the first one to come to mind when anyone thinks of women in science (she does highlight her daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie, though). The author categorizes the women according to their scientific disciplines: Medicine, Biology and the Environment, Genetics and Development, Physics, Earth and Stars, Math and Technology, and Invention. She includes a good variety of female scientists from different nationalities, though a little heavy on the Americans at times. I'm seriously glad a book like this exists, because though I recognized the names of a few of the women included here, the majority were ones I had never heard of. This is a great little history lesson not just on science, but on gender issues throughout the modern era.

A great read for anyone with an interest in science or gender, and also makes a great reference book for girls wanting to enter STEM fields.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the little bubbles that alternate between random colours and the head shots of some of the women included in the book (she identifies each one on the back of the front cover).

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