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Women in Science - 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

werLife stories of the accomplished tell how they overcame adversities to achieve their success and what inspired them, perhaps something in their childhood, an animal, a fossil or a hero. Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky, highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) covering a wide variety of nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and social class.

Its not just a selection of the usual, such as Marie Curie and Dorothy Hodgkin, but pioneering and brilliant women including most of those who have won science Nobel prizes. We meet amongst others geologists, astronomers, mathematicians, palaeontologist, physicists ophthalmologists, and cosmonauts.

Each hero has two pages with a brief biographical ~400-word essay, which outlines their achievement, highlighting their esteem and how they got there, often overcoming nasty bullying by the establishment. Also dotted around the pages are quotes, illustrations and interesting facts of their work, plus a cartoon (but the internet needs to be visited to get a real image).

There are further two-pages of mini-bios of 14 more women, a timeline and statistics in STEM, which shows that the underrepresention of women is being overcome. Finally, there is a glossary of relevant scientific terms, a list of sources and useful websites and index.

In the introduction Ignotofsky gives reasons why she wrote the  book, particularly a reminder of how womens' contributions to STEM have been ignored or denigrated over the centuries, and in truth, despite a host of laws and initiatives to counter it, possibly still are. Attitudes to women in STEM are gradually changing to equality but there have been some terrible discriminations, such as restrictions on woman's education, no research space (Marie Curie used a stuffy shed), no funding, not being paid, not allowed to publish because she was a woman, women not being awarded degrees, taking classes behind a screen so she wouldn’t distract her male colleagues or even not being allowed to enter the university building and more.

Our heroes have each overcome such discrimination by determination, probably with the cry 'Try and stop me'! The biographies hint at these but emphasise our pioneers' contribution to STEM.

Women in Science is a colourful A5-sized hardback on quality paper, nicely illustrated and written and fun, aimed at the children's book market. It could inspire a young reader to follow up, perhaps online. It would make a lovely birthday/Christmas present for a child from around 8 to 13 (although an eight year-old might find the text a little daunting), also for schools and libraries.

Reviewed by Richard Dawe

WOMEN IN SCIENCE - 50 FEARLESS PIONEERS WHO CHANGED THE WORLD by RACHEL IGNOTOFSKY, 2016. Published by: Wren & Rook 127pp, (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-5263-6051-9  List Price:£12.99