Women, Science, and Technology is an ideal reader for courses in feminist science studies, science studies more generally, women’s studies, and studies in gender and education. This second edition fully updates its predecessor, dropping ten readings and replacing them with new ones that:
Section introductions have also been fully updated to cover the latest controversies, such as Harvard president Lawrence Summers’ widely debated discussion about women and science and the current debates surrounding reports on the low numbers of female engineers.
Reviewer: Barbara J. Becker, PhD (University of California Irvine)
Description: This collection of essays, written by a wide range of professional women over a period of nearly 25 years (1974 - 1998), offers a long view of the feminist perspective on women in science and technology in the late twentieth century.
Purpose: The editors aim to make work in feminist analyses of science more accessible to undergraduates and readers new to the subject. Their goal is to communicate to scientists and science students the need to both critically examine the political, social, and economic forces behind their research, and to participate in the dialogues that shape scientific research and technological development. These goals are largely met in the stimulating and often provocative content of the selected essays that explore gender-based factors that influence students' academic and career choices, create and sustain stereotypes, construct social identity, define and interpret natural phenomena, and establish public policy.
Audience: Many in the target audience:those unfamiliar with feminist literature and ideology, or untutored in the external factors that informed the development of today's feminist perspective:may require more contextual guidance to derive meaning from the content. The editors provide some of this guidance in their introductions to each of the book's five sections and in the appendix. However, all would benefit from prefatory remarks setting each essay in its proper time and place.
Features: Several authors critique data, interviews, or material produced years earlier. In "The Medical Construction of Gender...," the author analyzes interviews conducted in 1985 with medical specialists who based their treatment of infants born with ambiguous genitalia on then-accepted theories of sex and gender identity. These theories, criticized as unnatural when first introduced in the 1950s and assimilated into medical school curricula by the 1970s, are questioned here as outdated and inappropriate. Specialists' careers may span attitudinal shifts of seismic proportions. Long-term treatment can exceed the life of any currently held view on "best" practice. Absent context and temporal fluidity in professional and popular attitudes toward science theory and practice frustrates ingenuous readers' efforts at objective interpretation. In "Nine Decades, Nine Women, Ten Nobel Prizes...," the author repeats a common popular misconception that Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel prize for his work on special relativity, an error that may cause alert readers to question the factual accuracy of the essay as a whole. The author's portrayal of Einstein's wife, Mileva Maríc, as prime mover in developing ideas for which he alone received credit ignores recent scholarship on the extent and nature of their collaborative work.
Assessment: Although the essays in the collection are uneven in quality, they will surely spark enthusiastic classroom discussion and debate. I hope that subsequent editions of the book are laid out with more generous margins. The content invites active reader response, but the scant space surrounding the text on each page leaves room for only the most cryptic of jottings.