Thursday, August 26, 2010

Number of the Week: 88%

That's the proportion of 18-24 year-olds in Britain who could not name any female scientific figure - either current or historical.

In saying that, just less than half were able to name a famous male scientist either.

A spokesperson for the Royal Society described the results as "frustrating".

The results come despite scientists being viewed as good role models, according to the same poll by the Society.

Plant sciences expert Professor Lorna Casselton FRS, Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society, said:

“The situation for women in science has changed hugely since I was a young woman struggling to persuade the Science Research Council to give me a postdoctoral grant and to take me seriously as a scientist. Today, the numbers of women reaching the top in science is increasing all the time.

“While it is frustrating many people are still unaware of the contribution made by women to science in the past, overall I am encouraged by the findings of this poll. They suggest public perceptions to women in science are changing. The Royal Society wants to encourage more girls (and their parents) to see science as an achievable and desirable career path. We want to show them that women can reach the top and experience the thrill of being the first person to make a scientific breakthrough. Most importantly we want to encourage them to see science not only as a fulfilling career but one that can change the world and contribute to our quality of life.” 

A list of the most influential British women in science is here.

It would be useful to compile a list of influential Irish women in science, past or present. Add your nominations as a comment below or send them to


Carol M August 26, 2010 at 11:03 AM  

Nominating Mary Rosse, Countess of Rosse, one of Ireland's earliest photographers...

Unknown August 26, 2010 at 6:00 PM  

Anne Kernan was involved in the Cern research that won a Nobel Prize

Recent report in the Irish Times:

eve.emshwiller August 27, 2010 at 3:27 AM  

Erna Bennett. Called "Erna Bennett was one of the early pioneers of genetic conservation." by Cary Fowler and Pat Mooney in their 1990 book "Shattering - Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity"

Anonymous August 27, 2010 at 9:20 AM  

You'll find lots of Irish women scientists celebrated in the two books WITS published, Lab Coats and Lace (2009) and Stars Shells and Bluebells (1997), and also in my own book about Ireland's scientific heritage, Ingenious Ireland (2002).

Mary Mulvihill

Anne Jefferson August 27, 2010 at 8:09 PM  

If you'll count an Irish woman working in the US, I'd nominate Bridget Scanlon, who has done decades of cutting-edge work on groundwater recharge and the impacts of climate variability and change on water resources in arid and semi-arid environments.

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