I had a discussion the other day with a friend about the question of "If their have been women geniuses" and if so, who are then and if not, then why? The discussion revolved mostly around sociology. For me, it's more of an issue of why women haven't been given the chance to express their genius. It was (is?) generally frowned upon by society to be an intelligent career/science driven female. Only in the past 100ish years have women even be able to attend college and get an education...and early on it was only the wealthy. With all this against them, is it any wonder there have been few past women geniuses? Or maybe its due to biology. I've heard it argued that men are characterized by extremes - either very low IQ or very high, while its more favorable for women to be 'moderate' in intellect.
It's interesting that we are still having these conversations - because both views are completely missing the FACT that there have existed and currently exist many examples of female geniuses. What we should have been talking about instead of playing biological/sociological head games is of all the KNOWN EXAMPLES of women that are geniuses! The two that come to mind that are without question 'geniuses' are:
Madame Curie - Curie was the first person to win or share two Nobel Prizes (chemistry, physics). She is one of only two people who have been awarded a Nobel Prize in two different fields, the other being Linus Pauling (Chemistry, Peace). Nevertheless in 1911 the French Academy of Sciences refused to abandon its prejudice against women and she failed by two votes to be elected to membership).
Lise Meitner -This story always makes me sad. Lise Meitner was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, an achievement for which her colleague Otto Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize. Meitner is often mentioned as one of the most glaring examples of women's scientific achievement overlooked by the Nobel committee. Also an example of the shear force of society trying to keep women from working with their minds (Max Planck allowed her to attend his lectures, an unusual gesture by Planck, who until then had rejected any women wanting to attend his lectures... she also worked without salary). She was offered a job on the Manhattan Project. Meitner refused an offer to work on the project at Los Alamos, declaring "I will have nothing to do with a bomb!" Wow...
Marilyn vos Savant. She is the person with the highest measured IQ and creator of the Monty Hall problem.
From here I did a bit more research and came up with:
Judit Polgar - the youngest Grandmaster chess player in 1991 at the age of 15. This girl was defeating grandmasters at age 11!! Can you imagine a grown man grandmaster chess player getting beaten by an 11 year old girl?? Haha what would you give to see the look on his face...
Emilie du Chatelte - A forgotten favorite of mine! She was described by Voltaire as "a great man whose only fault was being a woman" (wow what a moron... can we take him off the genius list). I remember I was in my intro college physics class and the professor told us the tale of how she is the one that discovered that energy is proportional to the velocity squared.... not linearly proportional to velocity...as Newton himself had believed. Her translation of Principia (oh ya...she was fluent in Latin, Greek, German and Italian at age 12) is still the standard one we use today. E=1/2 mv^2 is a huge discovery in physics... I don't not understand why her name isn't sung like Newton and Leibniz.
Ada Lovelace - The first programmer!! The daughter of Lord Byron, she is mainly known for having written a description of Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. She is today appreciated as the "first programmer" since she was writing programs--that is, encoding an algorithm in a form to be processed by a machine--for a machine that Babbage had not yet built. She also foresaw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching while others, including Babbage himself, focused only on these capabilities
Obviously I could go on. In my search I found so many women I've never heard of that seemed to be utterly extraordinary. Why aren't these women more famous? Perhaps one way to get more girls interested in science is to educate them on the fact that so many women have been genius scientists.... and there is no reason why they can't be next!
Post edited October 7, 2009 at 10:35 PM EST.
Post edited October 7, 2009 at 10:35 PM EST.