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A History of Women in Astronomy and Space Exploration (Hardback)

Exploring the Trailblazers of STEM

Women of History

By Dale DeBakcsy
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 20 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399045322
Published: 24th April 2023



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For the last four hundred years, women have played a part far in excess of their numerical representation in the history of astronomical research and discovery. It was a woman who gave us our first tool for measuring the distances between stars, and another who told us for the first time what those stars were made of. It was women who first noticed the rhythmic noise of a pulsar, the temperature discrepancy that announced the existence of white dwarf stars, and the irregularities in galactic motion that informed us that the universe we see might be only a small part of the universe that exists.

And yet, in spite of the magnitude of their achievements, for centuries women were treated as essentially second class citizens within the astronomical community, contained in back rooms, forbidden from communicating with their male colleagues, provided with repetitive and menial tasks, and paid starvation wages. This book tells the tale of how, in spite of all those impediments, women managed, by sheer determination and genius, to unlock the secrets of the night sky. It is the story of some of science's most hallowed names - Maria Mitchell, Caroline Herschel, Vera Rubin, Nancy Grace Roman, and Jocelyn Bell-Burnell - and also the story of scientists whose accomplishments were great, but whose names have faded through lack of use - Queen Seondeok of Korea, who built an observatory in the 7th century that still stands today, Wang Zhenyi, who brought heliocentrism to China, Margaret Huggins, who perfected the techniques that allowed us to photograph stellar spectra and thereby completely changed the direction of modern astronomy, and Hisako Koyama, whose multi-decade study of the sun's surface is as impressive a feat of steadfast scientific dedication as it is a rigorous and valuable treasure trove of solar data.

A History of Women in Astronomy and Space Exploration is not only a book, however, of those who study space, but of those who have ventured into it, from the fabled Mercury 13, whose attempt to join the American space program was ultimately foiled by betrayal from within, to mythical figures like Kathryn Sullivan and Sally Ride, who were not only pioneering space explorers, but scientific researchers and engineers in their own rights, aided in their work by scientists like Mamta Patel Nagaraja, who studied the effects of space upon the human body, and computer programmers like Marianne Dyson, whose simulations prepared astronauts for every possible catastrophe that can occur in space.

Told through over 130 stories spanning four thousand years of humanity's attempt to understand its place in the cosmos, A History of Women in Astronomy and Space Exploration brings us at last the full tale of women's evolution from instrument makers and calculators to the theorists, administrators, and explorers who have, while receiving astonishingly little in return, given us, quite literally, the universe.

Simply stated, "A History of Women in Astronomy and Space Exploration: Exploring the Trailblazers of STEM" should be a core addition to every highschool, community, college, and university library Women Scientist Biography and Astronomic History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. Exceptionally informative, expertly organized and presented, featuring a section of black/white photos, a four page Selected Reading List, and a four page index, "A History of Women in Astronomy and Space Exploration" is also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format.

Read the full review here

Midwest Book Review

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In this fascinating book about the many important women in the fields of astronomy and space exploration, Dale DeBakcsy explores ancient lady astronomers all the way to current trailblazers in these fascinating fields. Alternating between chapters dedicated to one incredible woman and chapters composed of many shorter biographical sketches, DeBakcsy provides an exhaustive amount of information about these many intelligent women. DeBakcsy also references other works about these pioneers in “Further Reading” sections, including as many references to related books as possible (and addressing which women do not have more scholarship about them and why). DeBakcsy places these women into the central narrative of astronomical and space exploration innovations while also highlighting their personal accomplishments -- publications, discoveries, and other successes. The balance between individual achievement and collective success is remarkable and allows the reader to fully understand the significance of these women, even if they do not fully understand the scientific nuances. Continuing a series starting with A History of Women in Medicine, DeBakcsy continues to explore the lives of historical women in STEM, changing the historical narrative on these topics and presenting a more diverse and complete picture of the histories of STEM fields.

NetGalley, Lily Amidon

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a thorough and interesting book about the women who've studied and explored space. It's written more in an encyclopedic than narrative form, which makes it a good choice as a reference book. As a historical romance author, I know I'll turn to it regularly.

NetGalley, Andrea Romance

Even from the very beginning note on inclusion, I knew I was going to love this book. It’s superbly written and incredibly interesting from the start.

There are SO many hidden women in science, astronomy and physics it’s just unfathomable. This book did such a great job on shining a light on so many of them and managed to include an overwhelming amount of some fab women and historical figures in STEM, some known and some never heard of. It made for such interesting reading and was written in a way that both engaged and informed the reader.

There were also really handy pointers at the end of each important figure, telling you where you could go for further reading which I also found super useful. The pages dwindled quickly and with paragraphs briefly focusing on one and their achievements, it made for speedy reading. The chapters varied but always felt short and easy to read.

There seems to be so much in here and way too much to absorb fully in one sitting. I’d definitely go back and reread again and again.

NetGalley, Nicola Wilton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating and Inspiring! I have two daughters in STEM and wanted to read this to learn more about the impacts women have made in these fields. So many trailblazing women with significant scientific and mathematical contributions are documented in this book. It’s a log of accomplishments and truly inspiring possibilities. I’m so grateful this book has been written and I’ll definitely be buying a copy for my girls. I also love the recommendations for further reading.

NetGalley, Books Tea Magic

About Dale DeBakcsy

Dale DeBakcsy has written the popular bi-weekly Women In Science column at Women You Should Know (www.womenyoushouldknow.net) since 2014, creating a freely accessible archive of in-depth and rigorously researched articles detailing the history of women professionals in all branches of STEM. For three years, he was the author and illustrator for the History of Humanism series at New Humanist, and is a contributing author to the Great Minds column at Free Inquiry Magazine. His essays have appeared in Philosophy NowThe FreethinkerSkeptical Inquirer Magazine, American Atheist Magazine, The Humanist, and Free Inquiry Magazine. From 2007 until 2018, he (under the incredibly classy pseudonym Count Dolby von Luckner) and Geoffrey Schaeffer co-wrote the historical satire webcomic Frederick the Great: A Most Lamentable Comedy Breaching Space and Time, and in 2016 he published The Cartoon History of Humanism at The Humanist Press. By day, he is an instructor in world history, mathematics, and science in the beautiful California Bay Area. By night, he is… very tired. He is the proud father of two girls, two cats, and four chickens. This is his first book for Pen and Sword Books.

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