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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 19 (2014) pp 210-216

Exploring Pioneer Women in Chemistry: Discoveries Amid Conflicts in a Study Abroad Course

Janis H. White, Valencia Browning Keen, and Rick C. White*,†

Department of Chemistry, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX77341, CHM_RCW@SHSU.EDU; Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX77341
Received May 15, 2014. Accepted May 30, 2014.

Published: 27 June 2014

Abstract. A study of the lives of early female scientists, two of whom are encountered in a two-week study abroad class, is made. The women are well-known Nobel-Prize-winner Marie Curie, credited with the discoveries of radium and polonium; a relatively unknown Ph.D. chemist, Clara Immerwahr, wife of 1918 Nobel-Prize-winner Fritz Haber, who objected to Dr. Haber’s use of chemical warfare during World War I; and Ellen Swallow Richards, an early American female chemist who could not receive her Ph.D. from MIT because the institution would not award its first Ph.D. in chemistry to a female. Marie Curie’s life was made easier by the support of her husband, as was Mrs. Richards’, while Dr. Immerwahr’s life was made difficult due to her husband’s aggressive self-promotion. Mrs. Richards’ life was driven by her desire to make healthier, more comfortable lives for the people around her, and it was her fluency in German that helped to further her husband’s career in mineralogy. This paper also compares the inclusion of women in higher education, both as students and as faculty, in Europe and the U.S. at that time, and deals with other aspects of the times in which they lived along with their familial influences.

Key Words: Chemistry and History; women

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail: CHM_RCW@SHSU.EDU)

Article in PDF format (107 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

Promotional brochure for the study abroad course entitled “Discoveries in Chemistry, Textiles and Nutritional Sciences” and a PowerPoint presentation on the lives and work of Marie and Pierre Curie (973 KB).



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