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7 Reasons Why Women Are Invisible in Science

Most know of the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the modern world. We also know it was built in memory of Mumtaz Mahal. But how many know of her Aunt Nor who invented the device that performed attar distillation of flowers to make perfumes?

Despite thousands of years of contributions, many are unaware of pioneering women like the two ancient Egyptian female doctors Merit Ptah and Peseshet who are considered to be the first female doctors in human history.

Another famous example is Hypatia (ca. 370-415), the Ancient Greek/Egyptian philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, and teacher who lived in Alexandria, in northern Egypt.

The Islamic history is also rich with examples of female Muslim scientists who excelled in several scientific fields like, Lubna of Cordoba (d. 984) who was a skilled mathematician and presided over the royal library, and she was proficient in other sciences as well.

Fatima Al-Majritiya, the daughter of Maslama Al-Majriti (d. 1008 or 1007 CE), was a great female Muslim astronomer of medieval Andalus and a renowned Astrolabes manufacturer.

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The Muslim female scholar Sutayta Al-Mahāmali of Baghdad excelled in mathematics as well as in other scientific fields. It is said that she was an expert in hisab (arithmetics) and fara’idh (successoral calculations), both being practical branches of mathematics which were well developed in her time.

It’s said also that she invented solutions to equations which have been cited by other mathematicians, which denote aptitude in algebra. Although these equations were few, they demonstrated that her skills in mathematics went beyond a simple aptitude to perform calculations.

The title of the first nurse of Islam is credited to Rufayda Bint Saad Al Aslamiyya. But names of other women too were recorded as nurses and practitioners of medicine in early Islam: Nusayba Bint Kaab Al-Mazeneya, one of the Muslim women who provided nursing services to warriors at the battle of Uhud (625 H), Umm Sinan Al-Islami (known also as Umm Imara), who became a Muslim and asked permission of the Prophet Muhammad to go out with the warriors to nurse the injured and provide water to the thirsty, Umm Matawe’ Al-Aslamiyya, who volunteered to be a nurse in the army after the opening of Khaybar, Umm Waraqa Bint Hareth, who participated in gathering the Qur’an and providing her nursing services to the warriors at the battle of Badr.Female scientist

Moreover, other women like Empress Shi Dun of China was known for inventing paper, while Catherine Green invented cotton gin, the patent of which is actually held by Eli Whitney.

Florence Nightingale is known as a famous nurse, but she was also a brilliant mathematician. Her contribution to statistics as the inventor of the pie chart used by businesses, technologists, researchers, and governments throughout the world today is virtually unknown.

This continues even in the ‘Information Age,’ where we boast of living in knowledge-based societies. It took fifty years for Rosalind Franklin’s outstanding contribution to understanding the helical structure of the DNA to be even acknowledged.

The X-rays she used to discover the secret of life (DNA) probably killed her due to the lack of adequate protection from the radiation in the lab that made her contract cancer and die at the young age of 37.

How many of us know of contemporary women like Helen Greiner, the president of the largest robot company in the world, or of Vanitha Rangaraju, the only Indian woman to win an Oscar for her technical work?

After research and interviewing several women and men in the fields of education, business and technology, I found there are seven primary reasons why women in technology continue to remain invisible – Social Myths, Conditioning, Media, Deterrence, Balance, Networking, and Marketing.

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About Deepa Kandaswamy
Deepa Kandaswamy is an award winning writer, political analyst and engineer based in India. Her articles have been published in six continents and some of her writing credits include PC Plus (UK), Middle East Policy (US), Christian Science Monitor, Ms., Herizons (Canada), Khaleej Times (UAE), Film Ink (Australia), The Hindu (India), and Gurlz (India). She can be contacted by e-mailing to [email protected].