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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 6 Issue 2 (2001) pp 114-120

Chemistry for Beginners. Women Authors and Illustrators of Early Chemistry Textbooks

Simona Badilescu

Département de chimie et biochimie, Université de Moncton, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada E1A 3E9
Received August 14, 2000. Accepted October 17, 2000

Published online: 5 January 2001

Abstract. Before women could participate directly in the creation of scientific knowledge, they worked privately as translators, illustrators, and authors of science books. In the early nineteenth century, Jane Marcet in Britain, and later Almira Lincoln Phelps in the U.S., recognized the need for experimental training of beginners and, to compensate for the lack of experiments, produced meaningful drawings for their textbooks. By using a fresh narrative, a pleasing style, and beautiful drawings of their own, they wrote “chemistries for the beginners” that were both instructional and entertaining. Engraved in the tradition of the nineteenth century illustration, Jane Marcet’s Conversations on Chemistry and Almira Lincoln Phelps’ Chemistry for Beginners, originally written for the education of women, were immensely successful and lasted longer than many of the more specialized contemporary works.

Key Words:  Chemistry and History; women in chemistry

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Issue date: April 6, 2001

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