Northern Illinois University Press

Men, Women, and the Birthing of Modern Science

Edited by Judith P. Zinsser

"The essays are widely dispersed geographically—a real virtue of this volume—and cover a broad range of subjects from the role of gender in early modern natural philosophy, both learned and popular, to the concept of ‘household science’ to the work of various women philosophers, astronomers, medical practitioners, and experimenters. They bring to bear significant new research or, in other instances, a reconceptualization of an important subject."—Paula Findlen, Stanford University

"An original and diverse set of essays that looks afresh at the roles of women in the Scientific Revolution. These readable essays provide an excellent counterpoint to the standard narratives of the era."—Anita Guerrini, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Of particular value is the distinctly international and comparative perspective brought to bear in the volume.... This eclectic and provocative compilation will undoubtedly be of interest to an array of scholars teaching and conducting research in the areas of early modern history, the history of science, philosophy, and gender studies."—Nuncius: Journal of the History of Science

In the early 1600s, Francis Bacon could encompass all knowledge of both the physical and the metaphysical in a single term: natural philosophy. Over the next two hundred years, however, natural philosophy gradually split into philosophy—the study of first causes and ways of knowing—and science—the study of the material world, based on direct observation and verifiable experiment.

Science was not initially an exclusively masculine domain. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, women received doctorates in physics and taught at universities. They corresponded with Descartes and dared to question his premises and conclusions. In astronomy, they worked side-by-side with men to make observations and calculate cometary orbits. They not only translated and illustrated scientific works but published original syntheses and reports based on their own research. Gradually, however, as access to the new knowledge became institutionalized, women were excluded, and by the beginning of the nineteenth century, the roles open to women were deemed secondary to those of men. Women’s ideas or discoveries were subsumed under the names of male colleagues, dismissed as the work of amateurs, or viewed as marginal and easily forgotten. This subtle combination of changed circumstances gave the new science a gendered dimension.

Men, Women, and the Birthing of Modern Science traces the division of natural philosophy into the modern categories of philosophy and science and the gradual marginalization of women as intellectuals. Here, ten scholars of gender, women’s history, and the history of philosophy and science write on these twin themes, allowing the opportunity for cross-cultural analysis and yielding insights into the history of both science and women.

(2005) 216 pp., index
ISBN: 978-0-87580-340-1
cloth $42.00

Table of Contents

Introduction: Judith P. Zinsser

Queen Christina’s Metamorphosis—Her Alchemical World Soul and Fictional Gender Transformation: Susanna Åckerman
Margaret Cavendish and the Microscope as Play: Hilda L. Smith
The Many Representations of the Marquise Du Châtelet: Judith P. Zinsser

The Gender of Nature and the Nature of Gender in Early Modern Natural Philosophy: Margaret J. Osler
Neither Natural Philosophy, Nor Science, Nor Literature—Gender, Writing, and the Pursuit of Nature in Fontenelle’s Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes habités: J. B. Shank
Minerva and Venus—Algarotti’s Newton’s Philosophy for the Ladies: Franco Arato

Women and Science in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries—Different Social Practices, Different Textualities, and Different Kinds of Science: Lynette Hunter
Joanna Stephen’s Medicine and the Experimental Philosophy: Stephen Clucas
The Invisible Economy of Science—A New Approach to the History of Gender and Astronomy at the Eighteenth-Century Berlin Academy of Sciences: Monika Mommertz, Translated by Julia Baker
Princess Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova and Women’s Issues in Russia in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: Grigory A. Tishkin, Translated by Albina Krymskaya

Suggested Readings
List of Contributors

Shopping Cart Operations

ISBN: 978-0-87580-340-1
cloth $42.00