Women in Science Term Paper

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Role of females in science [...] Rachel Carson and Barbara McClintock and compare each scientist to general principals characterizing the careers of women in science.


One becomes a scientist by viewing the world in a particular manner; scientists select for study those aspects of the world that are amenable to analysis by scientific methodology. A person acting as a scientist constructs a scientific domain out of the world when s/he adopts a scientific attitude (Grinnell 2).

Most scientists face obstacles at some point in their career. Their research does not produce the results they expected. They lose their funding and must move to another research location. Critics do not agree with their findings or methods. When the scientist is a woman, she often faces even greater obstacles than her male counterparts. Rachel Carson and Barbara McClintock are two such women scientists, who worked relentlessly toward their goals, and often faced uphill battles with their research, findings, and public personas.

The earliest contemporary feminist scholarship on the natural sciences tended to focus on the barriers aspiring women scientists have faced in the past (and continued to face in the present)...(Keller and Longino 2).

Today, more women participate in scientific discovery and research than ever before, yet many still face barriers. Some have success breaking the barrier by recognizing "The opportunities are the possibilities of understanding phenomena in new ways;...we can entertain the possibility that quite different accounts might emerge from other locations with the benefit of different emotional orientations" (Keller and Longino 269).


Rachel Carson may be most well-known for writing the classics "Silent Spring" and "The Sea Around Us," but before she became a writer, she hoped to study and work as a scientist, but could not find a position. She did work as a biologist for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, but soon moved to the information service.

She wanted to do scientific research, but as a woman she faced the usual difficulties of the time in getting a decent position in science, whether at a university, in private industry, or with the government. She did manage to get a position
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with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (later the Fish and Wildlife Service), and her talent as a writer led to her becoming the bureau's editor-in-chief of information service (Stevenson and Byerly 200).

She began writing as a way to make extra income to help support herself and her mother, and left the Bureau of Fishers in 1952 to devote herself to writing. She began studying the effects of pesticides on people and animals as early as 1945. "The more I learned about the use of pesticides, the more appalled I became,' Carson recalled"(Matthiessen). She went on to write one of the most influential volumes of the decade, "Silent Spring," which vehemently condemned (with startling and graphic research as evidence) the use of pesticides in commercial and agricultural spraying for the control of insects. Her description of the total annihilation of songbird populations where spraying occurred is chilling even today. "The agricultural chemical industry reacted vehemently to what it perceived as a threat to its existence. Carson was accused of being nothing more than a hysterical woman, a sentimental nature lover without professional credentials who was trying to wreck the agricultural economy" (Stevenson and Byerly 201).

In "Silent Spring," Carson wrote the use of pesticides "raise a question that is not only scientific but moral. The question is whether any 'civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized'" (Carson 99). The same questions face our world today with the threat of nuclear attack and biological warfare looming on the horizon. Carson's work helped the world recognize the destructive and deadly powers of DDT and its relatives, and helped establish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Carson did not live to see the results of her research and writing in "Silent Spring" - she died of breast cancer in 1964, just a year after the book's release. Like McClintock, Carson never married; her devotion was to her mother and her research.


Dr. Barbara McClintock won a Nobel Prize in 1983, after more than fifty years of research in genetic transposition (called "jumping genes"). She was eighty-one when the Nobel committee finally recognized her, and was the first American woman…

Sources Used in Documents:


Aisenberg, Nadya, and Mona Harrington. Women of Academe: Outsiders in the Sacred Grove. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988.

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.

Editors. "The Barbara McClintock Papers." National Library of Medicine. 20 Sept. 2001. 9 Oct. 2002. http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/LL/Views/Exhibit/narrative/missouri.html

Grinnell, Frederick. The Scientific Attitude. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1987.

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