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European Women in Chemistry


"I have no dress except the one I wear every day. If you are going to be kind enough to give me one, please let it be practical and dark so that I can put it on afterwards to go to the laboratory", said Marie Curie about her wedding dress. According to her lecture notes, Gertrude B. Elion is quoted a few decades later: "Don't be afraid of hard work. Don't let others discourage you, or tell you that you can't do it. In my day I was told women didn't go into chemistry. I saw no reason why we couldn't."

These two quotations from famous, Nobel Prize winning chemists amply demonstrate the challenges that female scientists in the past centuries have had to overcome; challenges that are still sometimes faced by the current generation. They "must have the noblest courage, quite extraordinary talents and superior genius" wrote Carl Friedrich Gauss 1807 in a letter to mathematician Sophie Germain.

For the official book to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry, the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS) has chosen one of the central goals of the International Year: the contribution and role of women in chemistry. This celebration, which is the focus of European Women in Chemistry, takes us on a journey through centuries of chemical research, focusing on the lives of those amazing women from ancient times to the current day who dared to study this subject, often against advice or societal expectations.

These portraits emphasize the extraordinary path and personality of these fascinating women, their major contribution to chemistry, but all in the context of their time and social environment. Some of these women, like Marie Curie and Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, are famous and still well-known today. Others have contributed significantly to the development of science and lived an exceptional life, but are nowadays almost forgotten. This book is a tribute to all of them and a motivation for new generations to come to tread new paths, fight for unusual ideas and control one?s own destiny.

Mary the Jewess
Cleopatra the Alchemist
Anna, Princess of Denmark and Norway, Electress of Saxony (1532-1585)
Marie Meurdac (1600s)
Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet (1706-1749)
Marie Lavoisier (1758-1836)
Jane Haldimand Marcet (1769-1858)
Julia Lermontova (1846-1919)
Martha Annie Whiteley (1866-1956)
Agnes Pockels (1862-1935)
Marie Sklodowska-Curie (1867-1934)
Clara Immerwahr (1870-1915)
Maria Bakunin (1873-1960)
Margarethe von Wrangell, Fürstin Andronikow (1876-1932)
Lina Solomonovna Shtern (also Stern, Schtern) (1878-1968)
Gertrud Johanna Woker (1878-1968)
Lise Meitner (1878-1968)
Stephanie Horovitz (1887-1942)
Irén Júlia Götz-Dienes (1889-1941)
Erzsébet (Elisabeth) Róna (1890-1981)
Gertrud Kornfeld (1891-1955)
Dorothy Maud Wrinch (1984-1976)
Hertha (Herta) Sponer (1895-1968)
Gerty Theresa Cori (1896-1957)
Ida Noddack-Tacke (1896-1978)
Ilona Kelp-Kabay (1897-1970)
Irène Joliot-Curie (1897-1956)
Maria Kobel (1897-1996)
Katherine Burr Blodgett (1898-1979)
Antonia Eliszabeth (Toos) Korvezee (1899-1978)
Mária de Telkes (1900-1995)
Erika Cremer (1900-1996)
Elisa Ghigi (1902-1987)
Kathleen Lonsdale (née Yardley) (1903-1971)
Marthe Louise Vogt (1903-2003)
Caroline Henriette MacGillavry (1904-1993)
Lucia de Brouckère (1904-1982)
Berta Karlik (1904-1990)
Elsie May Widdowson (1906-2000)
Boguslawa Jezowska-Trzebiatowska (1908-1991)
Yvette Cauchois (1908-1999)
Marguerite Catherine Perey (1909-1994)
Dorothy Crawfoot Hodgkin (1910-1990)
Ulla Hamberg (1918-1985)
Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
Jacqueline Ficini (1923-1988)
Andrée Marquet (1934-)
Anna Laura Segre (1938-2008)
Ada Yonath (1939-)
Helga Rübsamen-Schaeff (1949-)
Katharina Landfester (1969-)

“Despite what could have been, European Women in Chemistry offers an informative historical overview giving women reason to be curious about the lives and careers about many remarkable women.”  (Bulletin of the History of Chemistry, 2012) 

"Finally, this book fulfils its intention to be a tribute to these fascinating women, their major contribution to chemistry in the context of their time and social environment. Reading the stories might motivate new generations, not only women, to come to tread new paths, fight for unusual ideas and control their own destiny." (Materials and Corrosion, 2012)

"I found the book fairly readable and would recommend it to those working in chemistry, or indeed other sciences, and also to those who are considering a scientific career." (Chemistry World, 1 August 2011)

"The merit of this book, however, lies in its reporting the struggle and strife of those women who didn't make Nobel-worthy breakthrough discoveries but who managed to carve out a niche in chemistry, especially during the historical times when the discipline was still overwhelmingly populated by males." (Chemistry & Industry, 25 April 2011)

"It is my strong conviction that unbiased reading of this book, besides increasing the reader's historical knowledge of chemistry and science, will also have a profound, hopefully constructive, effect on their opinions on the potential achievements in science that might be obtained by women." (ChemMedChem, 1 April 2011)