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October 14, 1992

The Mind Has No Sex? Women in the Origins of Modern Science

Author Affiliations

Tenafly, NJ
Augusta, Me

JAMA. 1992;268(14):1940. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490140148056

Londa Schiebinger's adventure in scholarly sleuthing discovers the hidden, finds the lost, and celebrates the forgotten women in medicine and science in Western Europe and America from the 16th through the 19th centuries. This important, intellectually powerful book is often very funny in relating historical reasons why there are so few women scientists.

Seventeenth-century pundits, imitating Aristotle, asserted that women's brains were too cold and too soft to sustain rigorous thought. Some 18th-century theorists thought that female cranial cavities were too small to encompass powerful scientific brains. A common 19th-century belief was that vigorous exercise of a woman's brain shriveled her ovaries. And the great philosopher Hegel thought that women should study botany because the mind of a woman is as placid as a plant.

Beyond comedic virtues, this book's true power lies in its revelation of women's scientific achievements and its recasting of the question at hand: why are