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Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World
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Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  2,424 ratings  ·  465 reviews
Fifty-two inspiring and insightful profiles of history’s brightest female scientists.

In 2013, the New York Times published an obituary for Yvonne Brill. It began: “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” It wasn’t until the second paragraph that readers discovered why the Times had
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Broadway Books
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Skjam! Yes, right off the top of my head, Jane Wright ("the mother of chemotherapy") and Chien-Shiung Wu (big in nuclear physics). The author does mention th…moreYes, right off the top of my head, Jane Wright ("the mother of chemotherapy") and Chien-Shiung Wu (big in nuclear physics). The author does mention that the collection isn't as diverse as she would have liked.(less)

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Clumsy Storyteller
A Feminist's holy Bible. Thank you for this great short book Rachel. As a Scientist my teacher talked a lot about Rosalind Franklin, and how her data was key to the double helix model. But she was never credited for her work, And i'm glad that the truth got out, and everyone now knows that it was a team work, Not just Watson and Crick. my teacher also talked a lot about Barbara mCclintock, and how she was treated and isolated but she made a major breakthrough when she discovered transposition an ...more
Kevin McAllister
Dec 17, 2014 rated it liked it
While there's no doubt that all 52 of the amazing woman covered in this book are more than deserving of recognition (I've never heard of most of them) there is the matter of quality over quantity. Each of these woman's achievements we're covered in about two or three pages and they all left me wanting more. I couldn't help but feel this book would have been a more enjoyable reading experience if the author had narrowed down the selection to a round number, of lets say 10. And then dedicated more ...more
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
The premise of this book is basically the best. It was written in response to Yvonne Brill's obituary in the New York Times in March 2013, which honored her not for being an actual rocket scientist, but for her "mean beef stroganoff." After the public outcry, the Times amended the obituary—which, along with this book, is the perfect example of how social media can be worthwhile. This absurd thing happened, and even though it's been happening for decades and centuries, the fact that we're all con ...more
Jason Koivu
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
After recently reading a book with a very similar scope, but made for kids, I wanted something a little more adult on the subject of women in the STEM fields. This fit the bill. Swaby's book is a primer for the topic with which to discover some of the lesser-known but very important women of the world, and a great jumping-off point from which to learn more elsewhere. Because of Headstrong I'm going to seek out full bios of some of these fascinating people. ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Can you name any women scientists? Okay, Marie Curie, that's good. Anyone else? While I might have been able to come up with a few (Rosalind Franklin, Irene Joliot-Curie), the names wouldn't spring to mind as easily as I would like. Now that I've read Headstrong, I'll have no trouble coming up with a dozen or more off the top of my head. The best way to remember things is to connect a story to it. Here are 52 short stories of a few pages each, and you'll definitely remember at least a few of the ...more
Mar 04, 2015 rated it liked it

I got this book to review through the Amazon Vine program. This book goes through quick profiles of 52 women who had large contributions to science. The women are divided into different areas of science by the science they contributed to (physics, math, earth and stars, medicine, etc).

This is a decent book. My biggest complaints are that the sections on each woman are so brief that just as you are getting interesting in that woman the section ends. It only gives you a very brief look into their
Sep 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is about 52 women who did have an impact on our lives, and what saddened me is that I didn't know the majority of them..
Few pages for mini biographies, the idea is awesome, some readers said the author should have narrowed the number to 10 or less and spoke more of these ten, but no, I love the fact that 52 women were mentionned, you get to know a little about them, their fights, struggles and passion, this will tease your curiosity to find out more, leading you to more books and a who
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This lovely little collection does a fantastic job of providing brief, comprehensive summaries of brilliant female scientists, many of whom are virtually unknown. These admirable ladies are grouped by their scientific specialties and each is lauded for her accomplishments as well as her quirks and originality. Overall, Headstrong is an inspiring book that provides a wonderful starting point for exploring the lives of women who have shaped scientific history (mostly anonymously) for four centurie ...more
Jul 28, 2017 rated it liked it
I'll start by saying my science knowledge and background is limited. Headstrong provided an easy-to-read, brief overview of 52 women who contributed to science in one way or another. I had heard of some of the women before but there were many I had not.

The book is divided into sections: Medicine, Biology and the Environment, Genetics and Development, Physics, Earth and Stars, Math and Technology, and Invention. I personally found the invention and biology sections to be most interesting, but as
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: in-store-non
I'd probably knock off half a star for some of the writers literary choices (I swear, there was a line that was like, "He made her career there wicked hard", and a lot of time the tone dropped into slang, which isn't a bad choice on it's own, but it didn't fit the tone of the rest of the book), but to be honest, I have pretty low standards when it comes to books about women in science.

You know, because it's freaking hard to find them, and when you do, it's even harder to find books about women i
Rachel Swaby has written brief biographies of 52 amazing women. While no biography is more than 5 or 6 pages, it is just enough information and background to bring these women out of the shadows and peak my curiosity to find out more about their backgrounds and achievements with further research and reading.

The only thing that I didn't like about this book is that there exists a need for a book such as this. I have read about many of the men mentioned in this book (mostly in the Physics section)
Brenda Hoffman
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I just started reading the ARC, and it is written very well. In the first hour, I have already read three chapters, and find myself researching more about these women of science. There are some universal themes that emerge about determination, skill, and collaboration. I could see this book on library shelves or having students research further.
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Yes, yes, yes. More like this please. Short bios about women in science. Only a page or two each, but they give you just enough information. Some women I'd heard of, some I hadn't. Some it's made me want to learn more about. My overwhelming conclusion was that many really great women have really been shit on by men in the past. Here's to moving forward together. ...more
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow! 52 amazing, extraordinary women that not only did they change science (and the world) but also cleared the path for the generations that followed. Some of them I knew, some of them I didn't, but they all are role models to look up to, no matter your professional or life aspirations. ...more
Dov Zeller
This is a wonderful little book, an introduction to 52 brilliant, driven scientists who fought great odds to do what they loved and get recognition for it. Some reviewers are critical of the fact that the literary quality is not consistently great and the pieces so short there is a "quantity over quality" problem. I can see where they are coming from. On the other hand, I find the book fascinating, edifying and very skillfully put together. I love hearing (listening to the audiobook) short piece ...more
So many wonderful women in science. I am thankful for Rachel Swaby for bringing them to society's awareness. I have heard better versions of some of these histories, but have never heard them compiled together in a book like this, which really highlights the accomplishments of women, despite all they had to overcome to force their way into education and the sciences. Further, even though I was aware of many women in the book, because I love the history of science, there were still some new biogr ...more
This is a great book. The introduction recommends reading one profile per week, for a full year of inspiration. I ate it up over the summer and I highly recommend it.

Swaby's writing style is entertaining and informative. Each 3-4 page entry covers a scientist's major contribution to her field and gives a glimpse into her personality. The book is thematically arranged, with sections on medicine, genetics, the environment, physics, earth and stars, math, and invention, and organized chronologicall
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

What a great read. I tore through this in under a day, and science isn't even an area of particular interest for me. The book illuminates many female scientists of history that I must shamefully admit I had never heard of (along with a decent scattering I recognised), going into their background, work, and what their contribution meant as part of the bigger picture. More than that, the book is eminently readable; each scientist gets a handful of pages, meaning it's easy to pick up, read a few pa
Aug 31, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
Unfortunate execution of a good idea. Too many people for one book, so superficial, so colloquial, so bad. If someone has a recommendation for a good book about women scientists I’d love to hear it; I’m also working on American Women Scientists: 23 Inspiring Biographies, which is better but a) limited to Americans, b) doesn’t include some women I’m interested in like Maria Mitchell, c) still aimed a bit to a younger audience. Interested more in physical sciences/math.
A chapter a day is to be administered before bed in order to fortify the feminist in everyone.
vic (indefinite hiatus)
i. am . not. going. to. lie.
i almost- just almost - gave up on this book. it almost seemed right. i mean, a book. that took me fifteen days. i'm pretty sure that's a record for me. now i don't know if it's just me in a slump because since school was off i was busy with work, or it was just the book. or the topic. i received this copy from a stem program.. so i didn't willingly buy it on purpose. so i didn't have high expectations. although sometimes i feel i should. after all, Women in Scienc
Dec 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
How have I gone through life without knowing that Lord Byron's daughter was the first one to broach the idea of using algorithms for computing machines? I feel like a failure as a feminist and an English major.

3.5 stars. I'll be honest - I didn't love Swaby's writing style. I found it overly slangy & sometimes confusing. That said, she exposed me to dozens of women I had no idea existed. I enjoyed learning about the women that discovered the Earth's Inner Core, started pediatric cardiology, disp
LynnDee (LynnDee's Library)
Science is not my forte whatsoever, so about 75% of the time I was like, "that sounds really cool, and I'm definitely impressed, but I still have no idea what it means". Either way, this is a great book to learn about female scientists from around the world and throughout history that have "changed science...and the world". A lot of them I had never heard of before, probably because they weren't given credit when credit was due, and they didn't really teach about famous female scientists (except ...more
Jacqueline J
Read this for bookclub and was totally not looking forward to it. I expected it to be very dry. Instead it was quite entertaining and easy to read. The book is a series of short bios of women in STEM fields throughout history. These are not the women you have heard of like Curie but women who made important contributions who you've never heard of. This would be a wonderful read for middle school or high school girls who are interested in the STEM fields. Quite inspiring. ...more
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book provokes a lot of "Yes queen!"s. I can only hope to be as strong and leave as substantial an impact as these women. ...more
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
52 glimpses into the lives of women who helped change the world through science. I took away one star because I would have liked it to be even longer.
Sep 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of biographies of the frequently unsung women in world history that have shaped, changed and influenced our world. Many of the women I had never heard of and was intrigued and educated.
The biographies are short and thoroughly readable with a look into what shaped these headstrong, remarkable women. Our coming generations of girls have strong shoulders to stand on and it's our responsibility to encourage them and educate them that there really is no limit to determination.
Aug 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
These 52 capsule biographies of women scientists were a little too brief and superficial for my taste, but I'm so pleased that people are reading/listening to this book (my library's wait-list is surprisingly long). If I were a parent I would put this recording into the car's audio system and let this thing play on an everlasting loop - girls and boys both should hear about Barbara McClintock and Lise Meitner, Marie Tharp, Ada Lovelace, and the truth of the smear campaign against Rosalind Frankl ...more
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
I admire each and every scientists who are featured in the book. I would appreciate it more if personal life was mention so that we have a better view of work-life balance that each of them had to maintain. This is not trivial. In general, a balanced personal-professional life can be beneficial for both career and personal development, health and longevity. This balance is unfortunately more difficult to achieve for women because of gender-biased expectations on women. We need more books that su ...more
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2015
I'm going to be straight forward. I LOVE this book. I am all for female power. This book is kick ass. Completely empowering and fantastic. It makes you question history and want to conquer the world.

It was only the first page where I died laughing: "There have been instances, and I have been such, of females... graduated from school or college excellent scholars, but with underdeveloped ovaries. Later they are married, and were sterile." BAHAHA. I can't even.

"The system never does two tings wel
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Rachel Swaby is a producer of the podcast Runner's World, and the author of Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science--and the World as well as its young readers adaptation, Trailblazers: 33 Women in Science Who Changed the World. She lives in Los Angeles.

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