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Pythagoras's Trousers: God, Physics, and the Gender War

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  174 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Here is a fresh, astute social and cultural history of physics, from ancient Greece to our own time. From its inception, Margaret Wertheim shows, physics has been an overwhelmingly male-dominated activity; she argues that gender inequity in physics is a result of the religious origins of the enterprise.

Pythagoras' Trousers is a highly original history of one of science's m
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 17th 1997 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1995)
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Ben Babcock
I want to start this review by inviting you to read my review of A Short History of Nearly Everything, so you can understand my feelings about science going into this book.

If that’s tl;dr, then allow me to reiterate the main thrust of the review: science is fucking awesome. Got it?

Margaret Wertheim would agree with me, but in Pythagoras’ Trousers she explores how the general absence of women from mainstream scientific endeavours has affected the development of the sciences—specifically, physics
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Kogiopsis
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, reviewed
Physics is not my scientific field of choice. I’ve struggled with it since middle school, for a variety of reasons. Still, it’s an important field and one which drives much of our modern society – and also one in which women have comparatively little participation. Pythagoras’s Trousers was loaned to me by my grandmother, who read it for her book group, and thought I might find it interesting, and I did… though not precisely as the text it purports to be. Wertheim has produced a sound history of ...more
Trevor
Jan 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book is hot. Read it.

She says some really, really interesting things here about how physicists see themselves are reading the mind of god and are sort of the priesthood of science. She also gives high energy physicists a kicking over wanting to spend billions of dollars getting a unified field theory. Okay, I think she is wrong and billions of dollars is actually cheap for finding out these things - but I do think she has a point worth considering (and rejecting, obviously) in that there ar
...more
Margaret Wertheim
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wrote this book as a way to introduce physics as a culturally embedded activity, one that doesn't spring out of the blue but rather is deeply embedded in a matrix of philosophy and theology going back 2000 years. I didn't set out to write about the history of physics and religion, but that story gradually emerged during 4 years of research as a central issue in a story going back to the origins of physics with Pythagoras. The fact that there are so many physicists today writing about "the mind ...more
Rahma Leil
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Physics Vs Religion and Women in Physics : A book review for "Pythagoras' Trousers" by Margaret Wertheim

   Most of us perceive the relation between physics and religion as they are enemies due to the miserable end of Hypatia's life , the halt of Galileo's career by the church and the many other stories that showed the persecution of scientists by religious people , this led to the common ground that the  scientific community should be secular and objective, however Margaret Wertheim argues in he
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Melissa
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's a shame this book is out of print and hard to source. It gives a fresh perspective on the history of physics.
It's facinating how our culture shapes and influences the way we see the world and interpret scientific facts. Pythagoras' Trousers does a great job of arguing that the Christian religion has shaped physics both as a science and as an instiutuion.
While the history of women's contribution was interesting (and, as a woman, frustrating), this part of the book wasn't it's strength. As
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Sophiealka
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Pythagoras' Trousers" explores physics' and maths' historical conflation with priestly and theological pursuits (busting up the science vs religion myth) and also shows how it is the legacy of patriarchal structures borrowed from religious culture that is the source of gender inequality within the disciplines.

As an active science journalist, historian, and advocate of women in the sciences, it is a shame that Margaret Wertheim eschews touching on the history of the sciences outside of a Western
...more
Hanna
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fantastic
John
Aug 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting, readable, and novel history of physics and its interactions with faith. Not too detailed as to get tedious, but not too broad as to leave the reader without any personal connection to the individuals involved.
Wertheim re-introduces the reader to the history of modern physics, noting especially the conscious and unconscious religiosity of science and the very conscious barring of women from the scientific realm. The truly remarkable fact that she reveals, however, is the cont
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Blaire
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
I'm not sure the tripartite focus of this book was well-advised. Although the three subjects are related, I don't think the author was equally successful with each. I enjoyed the the history of physics most because I found it very informative and well-researched. I wish she had confined herself to that one subject. As it was, she glossed over a lot of history in the interests of keeping the length of the book relatively short. I found her writing both on the subject of religion and on women's la ...more
Hans
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book tells a fascinating story on the history of physics as told through the lens of feminism and religion. It asks, why are there so few women physicists? Could this be due to the priestly endeavors of modern physicists and the quest for a theory of everything (TOE) which, like the search for god, is a journey of faith, and not necessarily of science. I would recommend this for anyone with an interest in the history of science/physicist. Along the way you'll read of women scientists who ha ...more
Anna
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism, history
Ahhh! So good! An awesome overview of the history of physics, simultaneously explaining the connection between the science and its priest-like religiosity, as well as its continued exclusion of women. Well researched and executed. Such a delight.
Sarah
Mar 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: math-science
Aside from a terrific title, this book is turning out to have a fascinating thesis too: relating the frequently perceived religiosity of physics with the lack of women in the field. We'll see if she can pull it off.
Donna
Dec 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
About one of the chapters actually explores women in physics, so not much of a enlightenment, here. Unfortunately, reads like a thesis from a grad student rather than being inspired by a fascinating history and the possibilities for future direction of science.
Lynda
Jan 20, 2008 rated it liked it
This is an interesting look at the history of science. Wertheim has a very clear agenda (how/why science was closed to women for so long) and at times I felt a bit bludgeoned by her agenda. It is, nevertheless, a worthy and interesting read.
Maryanne
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book then I leant it to someone NEVER AGAIN
Denise DeRocher
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic - a must-read whether or not you are into science, math, women's rights or general history!!
Terry Tonon
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you like to think, you'll like this book--that simple.
Velvetink
Margaret Wertheim wrote a piece for "Dick for a Day: What Would You Do If You Had One?" by Fiona Giles. In that she also mourns the fact that physics is one of the last bastions of male power.
Lissa Notreallywolf
This was a very interesting overview in the relationship of gender and mathematics and physics.
Standard
rated it it was amazing
Oct 30, 2008
Morgan Lewis
Sep 12, 2017 added it
Shelves: school
My science brain needs some work, but this book is written so clearly that it distills a vast history of scientific and philosophic thought and simplifies it for anyone to understand. Learning about the intersections of religion, philosophy, science, and feminism was really interesting to me. It was a little frustrating at the end because not much progress has been made for women in the sciences—especially in physics—but the tone is hopeful and positive, and Wertheim brings to light many of the ...more
Kitty Dutton
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Sep 05, 2012
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