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Women scientists in fiction

Julian Wood woodj at acs.ucalgary.ca
Fri Jan 6 16:22:11 EST 1995

In article <199501031734.JAA28272 at accord.cco.caltech.edu>,
ravena at CCO.CALTECH.EDU (Karen Allendoerfer) wrote:

> One fictional portralyal of a woman scientist that has affected a number of
> people that I know in childhood is that of Mrs. Murry (Meg's mother) in
> the book "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madelaine L'Engle.  The book won a Newberry
> award and is considered something of a children's classic, at least here
> in the U.S.  Mrs. Murry runs a biology lab off of her kitchen at home, and
> thus manages to combine work and family life in an almost seamless fashion,
> complete with jokes from the kids about "well, mom, I hope you don't get
> any nasty stuff from the lab in with the dinner," or some such.  When I
> was 9 and read the book for the first time, the vision was quite appealing,
> and even a male friend of mine recently mentioned that he, too, was moved
> as a child by the vision of a kins (kind) of bucolic science that wasn't
> so divorcedd from the home and family.
> You also might want to look at *Beggars in Spain* by Nancy Kress, in which
> a woman is heavily involved in the technological advance that enables 
> people not to sleep (a science fiction book, obviously), *The Goldbug
> Variations* by Richard Powers (young male scientist falls in love with
> slightly older female scientist, and becomes obsessed), *Life Before Man*
> by Margaret ATwood (Lesje is a paleontologist and museum curator).  I'm,
> sure there are others, this is a theme that has interested me too, for
> a long time, but I just can't think of them right now--maybe woman
> scientists in fiction are still quite rare?  
> I would be interested in the list that you complile when you get all the
> suggestions.  Could you email it to me?  Thanks!
> Karen Allendoerfer, Ph.D.
> ravena at cco.caltech.edu

There was an interesting female scientist in "Comet Halley" by Fred Hoyle. 
She was atypical in that she was in fact brilliant , glamourous and funny.
If I remember correctly, there is a passage where some adminstrators
suggest that she got on so well in her career and studies because she
slept with all the members of various committees.  The principal male
protagonist quite correctly points out that all her scholarships etc. are
the same as his, and that nobody ever accused him of sleeping with
anybody.  In fact although Hoyle's fiction is not the greatest, his
portrayal of scientists in all his work is quite sympathetic.  Could this
be because he actually worked (and is still working)
as a scientist himself, and actually knows what he is talking about ?
Michael Hynes, U. of Calgary

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