Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Magnificent Minds: Contributions in Science and Medicine by Women

"Why has woman passion, intellect, moral activity--these three--and a place in society where no one of the three can be exercised?" Florence Nightingale in "Cassandra"
Florence Nightingale conjurers up an image of  a compassionate woman tenderly caring for war wounded men. She is remembered as a nurse--a role consistent with social expectations of women as mothers and nurturers. We may know that she revolutionized hospital care and inspired the founding of the Red Cross, but how many of us know that she loved mathematics and employed statistics in her research and created pie charts for her reports? Or that 'Crimean fever' left her in extreme pain and often bedridden while she continued her crusade? Nightingale was the founder of modern nursing based on evidence and experience--and mathematics.

Nightingale was selfless and devout, like the Victorian model of womanhood. But her brilliant mind and willingness to go into the filth and gore of the battlefield and hospital instead of expected marriage and motherhood set her apart as a 'remarkable woman'.
Pendred Noyce's book Magnificent Minds:16 Remarkable Women in Science & Medicine considers women from across history whose curiosity drove them to achieve important advances in physics, astronomy, chemistry and medicine. 

The book is beautifully presented with  an historical time-line for each woman, a concise biography including both her private life and career, illustrations, and side bar explanations. The achievements of each woman is understandably presented in context of their time and from a historical perspective. 

The women include:

  • Louise Bourgeois Boursier, 1563-1626, France, Midwife 
  • Maria Cunitz, 1610-1664, Poland and Germany, Astronomer
  • Marie Meurdrac, 1610-1680, France, Chemist
  • Laura Bassi, 1711-1778, Italy, Physicist
  • Augusta Ada Bryon, Countess Lovelace, 1815-1852, England, Computing Science
  • Florence Nightingale, 1820-1910, England, Mathematics
  • Mary Putman Jacobi, 1842-1906, United States, Medial Science
  • Sophie Kovalevskaya,1850-1891, Russia, Mathematics
  • Marie Sklodowska Curie, 1867-1934, Poland and France, Physics
  • Lise Meitner, 1878-1968, Austria, Physics
  • Emmy Noeher, 1882-1935, Germany, Mathematics
  • Barbara McClintock, 1902-1992, United States, Medical Sciences
  • Grace Murray Hopper, 1906-1992, United States, Computer Science
  • Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin,1910-1994, England, Chemistry
  • Chien-Shiung Wu, 1912-1997, China and the United States, Physics
  • Gertrude B. Elion,1918-1999, United States, Chemistry


Each loved a challenge and desperately wanted to work and contribute to improve society and expand our understanding of the world.


I was kept interested throughout the book and it left me wanting to know more. Happily, the author includes a reading list so one can learn more about each woman. This is a wonderful book for classroom use or to share with young women to encourage their dreams.

I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Magnificent Minds: 16 Remarkable Women in Science & Medicine
by Pendred E. Noyce
JKS Communications, Tumblehome Learning, Inc.
ISBN: 9780989792479
$18.75 hard cover
Publication March 1, 2015