Monday, September 12, 2016

Book Review: Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

For almost all recorded history, women’s contributions have been constantly downplayed, especially in the field of science. If you think I exaggerate name one female scientist other than Marie Curie who worked before 1900. See what I mean? Well, Rachel Ignotofsky is here to set the record straight with a charmingly illustrated book filled with short biographies and achievements of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

Some of the more recent are well-known; Mae Jemison (astronaut), Jane Goodall (primatologist), and Rachel Carson (marine biologist). If you haven’t heard of them, shame on you. Others will be new and range from Hypatia, an astronomer and mathematician in ancient Alexandria to women still working in science today. Ignotofsky devotes two pages to each woman. On the left side is a cute, quirky drawing done by the author. On the right is a biography and details of contributions surrounded by more of the author’s artwork with additional snippets of information. (Rachel Carson wrote a book about birds when she was eight).

Many of the women in Women in Science had little formal education. Most had to fight for respect. The author’s enthusiasm for her subjects is obvious by the numerous exclamation points scattered throughout. Ignotofsky doesn’t sugarcoat the problems her subjects faced.  She practically calls James Watson a lying scuzzbucket who stole credit for Rosalind Franklin’s discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.

While the book has winsome charm, the writing and illustration suffer from a slight disconnect. The targeted readership is unclear. The pictures are simplistic and appropriate for an elementary school student, but the writing is geared toward teenagers and beyond. This book doesn’t have enough subject matter for high schoolers or adults, yet can a middle-schooler visualize a procedure such as, “They tagged the hormone with a radioactive isotope, and then measure the amount of antibodies.”?  The book also mentions penis envy. I don’t know any middle school librarian who’d find that acceptable, not to mention able to stand all the sniggling giggles coming from the stacks when a student stumbles on the page. In the back is a small glossary, but no page link in the biography where the term occurs. Complex notions including motor neurons, cytogeneticist, Doppler Effect, trajectory, and ethyl esters are mentioned in the articles, but not defined.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review. 

1 comment:

  1. I've been doing a lot of reading about feminism and women and this is one I want to look at. Thanks for highlighting it!