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Women in Science
Moderated by  Laura Hoopes
Posted on: May 30, 2012
Posted By: Laura Hoopes

Ever Heard of Marie-Anne Lavoisier?

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Hi friends of women in science,

I read recently about the winners of the 2011 Mayborn Biography Awards. These prizes are given to college students who write a biographical essay about someone of their choice. One of the awards was given to Brittany Perry from Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, FL for her essay called "The Mother of Modern Chemistry." Marie-Anne Lavoisier was the wife of Antoine Lavoisier, and he is famous for discovering oxygen and the basis of combustion. The Lavoisiers lived during the French Revolution. Antoine was beheaded, sadly. Marie-Anne survived him and collected his works, making many aware of his contributions to chemistry. When he was alive, she translated many works of chemistry for him, including those of Priestley and Cavendish, and she helped in his experiments and drew all of his apparatus for the laboratory notebooks. Her critiques of the phlogiston idea as she translated helped him to insights about what the air is really like.

Perry had seen a tidbit about Marie-Anne Lavoisier in her chemistry textbook while studying for an examination. She researched her in books and by contacting professors at various universities, and she found her career fascinating. Brittany Perry likes biochemistry and plans to become a pediatrician. She said "Hey, here is a really brave lady who loved exactly what I do, and she did all these awesome things, but nobody ever remembers her!" So it was worth her time investment in finding out more.

I enjoyed hearing that Perry has now started a file for women who need biographies. Attagirl! I hope she writes more, and inspires others to do so.

If you know a college student who might like to write a biographical essay for the 2012 contest, its deadline is coming up soon, on June 8. FMI, click here.

3  Comments  | Post a Comment

I read about Lavoisier and other early female scientists years ago in Londa Schiebinger's book The Mind Has No Sex? Women in the Origins of Modern Science: (scroll down to footnote 69). Her picture is in the book, but not in the part available via Google Books.

From:  Cathy K |  May 30, 2012

Hi Laura,

Cool! Chemistry textbooks sometimes do have names of women, but others don't. They all SHOULD! And this woman's name should be in there, as it was in Brittany Perry's.

I don't know if text authors realize how much citing some women and scientists of color can matter to students taking science classes. I hope they do.


From:  Amanda R |  May 30, 2012

Hi Laura,
I'm in biology, but I can still use names of women who contributed to science 'way back when' before women were so welcome in the lab. Thanks for the info!

From:  Small Science Woman |  May 30, 2012
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