Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Women Scientists Who Made Nuclear Astrophysics

A paper entitled "Women Scientists Who Made Nuclear Astrophysics" has appeared on the nuclear theory section of the arXiv today.  It was originally posted a couple of weeks ago in the history of physics section.  The abstract sums up its purpose:

Female role models reduce the impact on women of stereotype threat, i.e., of being at risk of conforming to a negative stereotype about one's social, gender, or racial group. This can lead women scientists to underperform or to leave their scientific career because of negative stereotypes such as, not being as talented or as interested in science as men. Sadly, history rarely provides role models for women scientists; instead, it often renders these women invisible. In response to this situation, we present a selection of twelve outstanding women who helped to develop nuclear astrophysics.

The paper is destined for the proceedings of the conference Nuclei in the Cosmos XV.  The biographies of each of the scientists are very short, but give the interested reader enough to find out more.  

Nuclear astrophysics usually means those parts of science where nuclear physics and astrophysics intersect;  where the properties and reactions of nuclei apply themselves in stars.  It's a fluidly-defined sub-field, and it's not always clear from these brief biographies that they all fall in the intersection, but many of them lay foundations of one or other of the fields before the concept of "nuclear astrophysics" became a thing.  Anyway, it's a good read. 

The list of scientists are in order of date of birth, starting with Marie Skłodowska Curie.  The one member of the list who is still alive (at 99 years old) is Margaret Burbidge.  Here she is, in a picture from 1976

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