Sigma Xi Speaks: March 2017

by User Not Found | Mar 22, 2017

John Nemeth

March is Women's History Month, and I’d be hard-pressed to think of a year since the designation began in 1987 when the history of women in science was more visible. The Oscar-nominated movie Hidden Figures has contributed to this welcome development. The film has drawn belated but well-deserved attention to the American women in science and technology—notably, mathematicians Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan and engineer Mary Jackson—who gave their nation a competitive edge during the space race. If you enjoyed the movie (or the terrific book it’s based on by Margot Lee Shetterly), I’d invite you to learn more about Mary Sherman Morgan as well, the chemist who in 1957 formulated a liquid fuel called Hydyne for the Jupiter-C rocket used to launch America’s first satellite, Explorer 1. Her son George D. Morgan wrote a captivating book about Morgan and her research, which he discusses with the BBC here.

Sigma Xi is proudly participating in Women’s History Month by celebrating women's contributions to science, technology, engineering, and math. Our Women in STEM feature shows a diverse range of women who strive daily to solve problems and promote achievement in classrooms, labs, and industry, in countless locales across the world. 

Our online profiles highlight the accomplishments of a small sampling of women, from a population rich in education and experience. No matter their research specialties, the hallmark of these fearless pioneers is science advocacy—they share what they know and guide others toward a path of success. In turn, the individuals they advise generously champion future generations. Such kinship among bright minds makes the world a better place for everyone. 

Sigma Xi recognizes and encourages this cooperative spirit among scientists, among men and women, and across all disciplines. Chapters provide an array of ways for members to engage with and further this spirit—by advancing educational opportunities through scholarship and collaborations, by nurturing curiosity and passion, and by exploring new ideas and places within the science community.

Kids Science Reading Corner

What better time than Women’s History Month to share books about pioneering women in science? Hailing from a range of disciplines, the women featured in these books all made important contributions to science.

I Am Jane GoodallI Am Jane Goodall, by Brad Meltzer (ages 5–8): This volume of Melzer’s Ordinary People Change the World series shows how Goodall did just that. She remains an influential figure, and her pathbreaking primatology fieldwork, beginning in 1960, came at a vital time. 

Sally Ride: Life on a Mission, by Sue Macy (ages 8–12): The story of Sally Ride—a physicist and the first female astronaut—may be unfamiliar to youngsters. Macy’s thoughtful biography aims to inspire a new generation.

Finding Wonders: Three Women Who Changed Science, by Jeanine Atkins (ages 10 and up): In this three-part book in verse, Atkins recounts the fascinating lives of naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian, paleontologist Mary Anning, and astronomer Maria Mitchell.

Incidentally, high schoolers may also be interested in Hidden Figures and Rocket Girl, mentioned above. 

Young readers could hardly find better role models than the women found in these books: Each is determined to follow her own path, courageous in the face of opposition, and passionate about her work. In fact, I’d say they’re pretty good role models for everyone! 


John Nemeth Signature

John C. Nemeth, PhD
Executive Director and CEO
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society
Publisher of American Scientist

Sigma Xi Speaks is a monthly series of information that we hope you share with others. Find past articles on this blog.

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