A collection of short biographies highlighting 52 women who changed science - many of them Nobel prize winners - that most people have probably never heard of. Or, at least, never heard of in relation to their scientific accomplishments.
Most everybody of a certain age or with a fondness for old movies knows Hedy Lamar as a siren of Hollywood movies; fewer know she developed and held the patent for the technology that makes wi-fi and cellular phones possible. Literature and poetry readers will recognise Ada Lovelace as the daughter of Lord Byron but how many of those same readers know her paper on Babbage's Analytical Engine is considered "the most important paper in the history of digital computing before modern times.", or that she wrote the first computer program? Ever.
All of these women were amazing not only for their accomplishments in a time when women didn't accomplish much beyond home and hearth, and not only because they accomplished these achievements in the most male dominated of all the fields in a male dominated world. They were amazing because they just did what they wanted to do. They didn't wail, gnash their teeth, or whine, or cajole. They just got on with their passions and went around anyone who got in their way. An astonishing number of them worked for free. All of them kicked ass.
I shy away from calling these women role models: the biographies here are restricted solely to their scientific accomplishments and for all I know some of these women might have been drunks or addicts or gamblers in their private lives. Certainly Hedy Lamar had a rather colorful, and often pragmatic, love life (which I've read about elsewhere). I'm not judging Hedy for her choices - personally I say more power to her - but her choices are probably choices I'd rather not see my nieces have to confront. But they are amazing sources of inspiration for all women interested in STEM subjects. If these women changed the world in a time when they weren't even legally allowed to vote, imagine what similarly headstrong women today can accomplish (and are)?
My favorite quote is from Nobel prize winning physicist Rosalyn Sussman Yallow, who, along with her partner, identified the differences between humans an bovine insulin and developed radioimmunoassay: the process of measuring hormones by looking at their antibodies.
When asked "How does one get past discrimination?" she replied:
"Personally, I have never been terribly bothered by it ... if I wasn't going to do it on one way, I'd manage to do it another way."
This was an excellent read in audio. Fortgang's voice is clear and easy to understand and she reads the material naturally and with spirit.