THE 18TH CENTURY WOMEN SCIENTISTS OF BOLOGNA

Leemor Joshua-Tor leemor at cshl.org
Wed Mar 29 12:55:09 EST 2000


Something from Science-Week

> THE 18TH CENTURY WOMEN SCIENTISTS OF BOLOGNA
> In the history of Europe, the 18th century is known as the Age of
> Reason (the Enlightenment), a period when the educated upper
> classes doted on rational thought and the beginnings of modern
> science. This was an era that produced a great and influential
> flowering of human thought, but in all the countries in Europe
> except one, women were forbidden to study and lecture in
> universities, and women had hardly any participation in the
> sciences. The one exception was Italy.
> ... ... M. Cieslak-Golonka and B. Morten (2 installations, PL IT)
> present an account of the 18th century women scientists of the
> University of Bologna, the authors making the following points:
>      1) The authors point out that in the 18th century, the
> education of Italian women from the higher social classes was
> exactly the same as that of men, the special attitude toward the
> education of women apparently stemming from the influence of
> ancient Rome. In the universities of Salerno, Bologna, Padua, and
> elsewhere in Italy, women competed on an equal footing with men,
> particularly in the fields of literature, natural sciences, and
> medicine.
>      2) The University of Bologna, founded in 1088, was a place
> where the students elected both the faculty and the rector, and a
> university distinguished by the unusual number of women
> scientists it graduated and hired during the 18th century. At the
> University of Bologna, intellectually gifted women from the upper
> classes, and occasionally from the lower classes, had access to a
> level of education not seen in most Western nations until the
> 20th century. Some of these women flourished as scholars and
> scientists:
> ... ... a) Laura Bassi (1711-1778): Bassi was the pioneer among
> the women professors of the University of Bologna. She became the
> first woman to earn a doctor of philosophy degree, the
> university's first female professor, and the first woman to
> occupy a chair in physics. She focused on mechanics, hydraulics,
> and anatomy, and she was particularly intrigued with the works of
> Newton (1642-1727). She conducted physics tutorials and
> experiments for her students throughout her academic career, and
> for over 30 years, she offered an annual public lecture on
> experimental physics. Her academic duties were combined with an
> active family life: in 1738 she married a physician, and together
> they had 12 children.
> ... ... b) Anna Morandi Manzolini (1716-1774): Morandi was
> considered to be the finest practitioner of artistic anatomy of
> her time. She is frequently cited as the first to make models of
> internal organs, and her work showing details of the abdominal
> cavity and the uterus gained her special notice. She produced a
> model of the ear that could be taken apart to be used in the
> instruction of medical students. At the present time, in the
> Anatomical Museum at the University of Bologna, one can still see
> Morandi's wax models, including her self-portrait.
> ... ... c) Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799): Agnesi was a
> brilliant linguist and a talented mathematician, the eldest of 21
> children born to Pietro Agnesi, a professor of mathematics at the
> University of Bologna. Her most famous work, in two volumes, was
> _Analytical Institutions_, which for the first time provided a
> synthesis of many different branches of mathematics. The first
> volume focuses on algebra and its applications in geometry. One
> chapter describes a curve that has become well-known as "Agnesi's
> curl", or "versiera della Agnesi", which has become mistranslated
> to "the witch of Agnesi". This curve, expressed by the equation
> x^(2)y = a^(2)[a-y], was first described by Fermat (1601-1665).
> The second volume of Agnesi's _Analytical Institutions_ contains
> an analysis of differential and integral calculus. Agnesi was
> admitted into the Academy of Sciences in Bologna, and in 1750 she
> was offered an honorary chair at the University of Bologna in
> Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.
> ... ... d) Maria Dalle Donne (1778-1842): Dalle Donne was born to
> a peasant family in a small village on the outskirts of Bologna.
> Her talents were recognized early, and she was encouraged to
> study medicine. In 1799, she presented her dissertation and took
> the examination that made her the first female doctorate in
> medicine. She passed the examination with highest honors (maxima
> cum laude). In 1800, Dalle Donne published three important
> scientific papers. The first paper, on anatomy and physiology,
> was a review and commentary on work previously done on female
> reproduction and fertility, fetal malformations, and blood
> circulation in the uterus. The second paper suggested for the
> first time that diseases be classified on the basis of symptoms.
> The third paper focused on midwifery and the care of newborns. In
> 1829, Dalle Donne became only the second woman, after Laura
> Bassi, to become a member of the prestigious Ordine de
> Benedettini Academici Pensionati, in which she was awarded the
> title of "Academic". In 1832, Dalle Donne became Director of the
> Department of Midwifery at the University of Bologna.
> -----------
> M. Cieslak-Golonka and B. Morten: The women scientists of
> Bologna.
> (American Scientist Jan/Feb 2000 88:68)
> QY: Maria Cieslak-Golonka [golonka at ichn.ch.pwr.wroc.pl]
> -------------------
> Summary by SCIENCE-WEEK http://scienceweek.com 31Mar00
>
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>

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  Leemor Joshua-Tor, Ph.D.
  Associate Professor
  Keck Structural Biology
  Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory           Tel. (516) 367 8821
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  Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724            e-mail: leemor at cshl.org
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