Women in Physics

explanatory Essay
2049 words
2049 words


In 1944 the German chemist Otto Hahn was awarded a Noble Prize for his work on nuclear fission - the process that lies at the heart of nuclear bombs and power stations. The Austrian physicist Lise Meitner, who was the official leader of Hahn's team, and who also worked out the theoretical explanation of their experimental discoveries, was not even mentioned in the Noble committee's announcement. (Wertheim)

Thirteen years later the Chinese-American particle physicist Chien-Shiung Wu would likewise be left out when the Nobel committee made its announcements.

Likewise English astronomer Jocelyn Bell, who discovered pulsars, would also be denied a share in the Nobel that went only to her (male) supervisor.

Reports in the past showed that the highest percentages of women among students awarded a doctorate in physics are 20 to 27 percent ( India, Australia, Poland and France) and the lowest percentages are 8-9 percent (Japan, South Korea, Netherlands and Germany).

An international survey of around 900 women physicists in more than 50 countries found that the factor most frequently contributing to their success was encouragement from their families (parents and husbands). Also mentioned were the support of high school teachers, advisors, and professors; their own determination, will power and hard work; and participation in important international projects.

The outcome of the survey showed somecultural differences from the countries represented, with family issues such as marriage and child care important factors in some countries, and less so in others. Women in developing countries are more likely than women in developed countries to be married (four out of five in the first case, compared to two out of three in the second). (Barbosa)

The problems that the women surveyed mentioned were problems with balancing family and career and defeating the commonly encountered bias that women cannot do physics. The women who responded shared a strong passion for physics, and three out of four said that they would choose physics again, despite any difficulties or barriers they had encountered.

A report from Japan stated that it takes women an average of ten years more to advance to the rank of professor than their male colleagues.

A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found women professors consistently had less laboratory and office space and were paid less than their male colleagues.

"As of 1996, Princeton physics department had still not given tenure to a physicist not sporting the penile appendage" (Wertheim).

What We Did to Get Where We Are:

In this essay, the author

  • Recommends giving girls the same opportunities and encouragement as boys to learn physics. encouragement of parents and teachers strengthens girls’ self-confidence.
  • Explains the importance of promoting equity through policies and practices by establishing and publicizing transparent and fair mechanisms of recruitment, promotion, and approval of requests for funding.
  • Describes the benefits of providing a family friendly environment for career success, including childcare facilities, flexible working schedules, and employment opportunities for dual career families.
  • Explains the importance of including women in university and institute governance, particularly on key policy committees and in leadership positions.
  • Reports that the university of potchefstroom awarded six first-level degrees to women and 61 to men.
  • Explains that tel aviv university awarded 12 ph.d. degrees to women and 53 to men from 1998 to 2001.
  • Explains that marie and her husband pierre discovered two radioactive substances, radium and polonium, which led to marie being the first female to be awarded a nobel prize in 1903.
  • Explains that marie became the first person to win a second nobel prize in 1911 for her determining the atomic weight of radium and polonium.
  • Narrates how marie curie died of a blood disease that often results from too much exposure to radiation.
  • Narrates how sofia was born into a russian family of nobility, educated by governesses and tutors, married vladimir kovalevsky in 1868, and used all of her energy towards her work.
  • Cites sofia's paper "on the rotation of a solid body about a fixed point" that explained that for an unsymmetrical body, its center of mass is not necessarily on an axis
  • Narrates how she won the prix bordin in 1888 with her paper "on the rotation of a solid body about a fixed point."
  • Explains that sofia kovalevskaya died on february 10, 1891 after living a short life of only 41 years.
  • Explains grinstein, louise s., rose k. rose, and miriam h. rafailovich, eds. women in chemistry and physics.
  • Describes the mactutor history of mathematics archive: sofia vasilyevna kovalevskaya.
  • Explains that the highest percentages of women among students awarded a doctorate in physics are 20 to 27 percent (india, australia, poland and france).
  • Explains that the working group on women in physics was established by iupap in 1999 to understand why so few women go into physics as a profession and to develop strategies for increasing their participation and impact in the field.
  • Argues that women are underrepresented in physics at both the bachelor's and phd levels.
  • Opines that early encouragement to pursue education and an exposure early on to science are important. most women surveyed had decided to go into physics early.
  • Explains that there have been numerous women who can be considered as great physicists. marie curie (1867) is one of the most well-known female scientists that has ever lived.
  • Explains that marie curie is one of the most well-known women scientists. she was born in warsaw, poland in 1867.
  • Describes marie and pierre's discovery of radium and polonium in 1898, 1900, 1903, and 1906. marie became the first woman professor at sorbonne.
  • Narrates how inge lehmann, born in 1888 in copenhagen, denmark, earned her master's degree in mathematics and a second-degree in geodesy.
  • Explains that inge discovered that the earth had an inner core located 5121 km below the earth's surface and the lehmann discontinuity, which divides the core into the inner and outer parts.
  • Narrates how she was the first president of the european seismological commission, which she held for 25 years. she published her paper p'- which led to the lehmann discontinuity.
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