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February 17, 2011

Rendered invisible but not dead

As I read Londa Schiebinger's The Mind Has No Sex? Women in the Origins of Modern Science, my mind kept returning to another book I recently read, Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych. Near the beginning of The Death of Ivan Ilych, Peter Ivanovich enters the house of the deceased Ivan Ilych with thoughts not of his dead longtime friend and colleague but of the afternoon nap he was missing, ofthat night's game of bridge, of the promotions resulting from Ivan Ilych's death, and of the social attendance at Ivan Ilych's wake. Peter Ivanovich's thoughts remain focused on the social atmosphere surround the death, upon entering the room where Ivan Ilych lay, he "was immediately aware of a faint odor of a decomposing body" (Tolstoy 21). The corporeality of death cannot be avoided or glossed over by bourgeois pretension. One may say that death is a rare occasion--we spend far less of our days attending funerals than not. And yet when faced with a death, a compendium of thoughts and excuses cannot mask its physical presence.

Women, in the origins of modern science, are the Ivan Ilych's to the Peter Ivanovich's of burgeoning modern science's universities, academies, and formalities.

February 6, 2011

My rationale

Historical looks at women in science highlight women in lab coats. The women scientists who did field work--conservation biologists, ecologists, geologists--are often left out of the story told. The modern dilemma of how to increase the number of professional women scientists also focuses on women in traditionally lab-based sciences. I find this lack of attention to women field scientists problematic for two reasons.