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July 22, 1983

Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940

Author Affiliations

University of Kansas, Lawrence Fellow, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University 1982-1983 Boston


by Margaret W. Rossiter, 439 pp, with illus, $27.50, Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press, 1982.

JAMA. 1983;250(4):533. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340040073039

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In 1910, James McKeen Cattell, a professor of sociology at Columbia University and an editor of Science, published the second edition of his biographical directory, American Men of Science. Although the number of women contributing to science had jumped one third since the publication of the first edition four years earlier, Cattell remained struck by women's low performance (1.8% ranked in the top 1,000). Rather than conclude that something in the American cultural environment favored the exclusion of women from scientific endeavor, Cattell suggested, not untypically for a biologically oriented sociologist, that women's poor showing indicated the genetic inferiority of the female sex. "There does not appear to be any social prejudice against women engaging in scientific work," he wrote, "and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that there is an innate sexual disqualification."

Readers of Margaret Rossiter's fine and meticulously researched book Women Scientists in America will never