A selection of books on major female figures in STEAM
March 8 marks International Women’s Day, celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The MIT community at large has long highlighted the accomplishments of women—and their hard-fought efforts to achieve equity, at MIT and beyond, in often male-dominated fields. We’re honored to count many iconic women among our authors, and as the subjects of some of our most beloved books—including nanoscientist Mildred Dresselhaus, astronaut Kathy Sullivan, artist Marina Abramović, and more.
Explore the lives of these and other trailblazing women below, and learn more about the MIT Press’s Fund for Diverse Voices.
As a girl in New York City in the 1940s, Mildred “Millie” Dresselhaus was taught that there were only three career options open to women: secretary, nurse, or teacher. But sneaking into museums, purchasing three-cent copies of National Geographic, and devouring books on the history of science ignited in Dresselhaus (1930–2017) a passion for inquiry. In Carbon Queen, science writer Maia Weinstock describes how, with curiosity and drive, Dresselhaus defied expectations and forged a career as a pioneering scientist and engineer. Dresselhaus made highly influential discoveries about the properties of carbon and other materials and helped reshape our world in countless ways—from electronics to aviation to medicine to energy. She was also a trailblazer for women in STEM and a beloved educator, mentor, and colleague.
“A striking portrait of a brilliant mind… This is a fascinating introduction to a game-changing figure.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond: The Life of Astronomer Vera Rubin by Ashley Jean Yeager
We now know that the universe is mostly dark, made up of particles and forces that are undetectable even by our most powerful telescopes. The discovery of the possible existence of dark matter and dark energy signaled a Copernican-like revolution in astronomy: not only are we not the center of the universe, neither is the stuff of which we’re made. Astronomer Vera Rubin (1928–2016) played a pivotal role in this discovery. By showing that some astronomical objects seem to defy gravity’s grip, Rubin helped convince the scientific community of the possibility of dark matter. In Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond, Ashley Jean Yeager tells the story of Rubin’s life and work, recounting her persistence despite early dismissals of her work and widespread sexism in science.
“A compelling life of a top-notch scientist.” —Kirkus Reviews
Carrie Mae Weems edited by Sarah Elizabeth Lewis
In this October Files volume, essays and interviews explore the work of the influential American artist Carrie Mae Weems—her invention and originality, the formal dimensions of her practice, and her importance to the history of photography and contemporary art. Since the 1980s, Weems (b. 1953) has challenged the status of the Black female body within the complex social fabric of American society. Her photographic work, film, and performance investigate spaces that range from the American kitchen table to the nineteenth-century world of historically Black Hampton University to the ancient landscapes of Rome.
“Thoughtful, thorough, and timely, this scholarly yet accessible survey reveals Weems as a foundational, influential, and prescient figure.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut’s Story of Invention by Kathryn D. Sullivan
The Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized our understanding of the universe. It has, among many other achievements, revealed thousands of galaxies in what seemed to be empty patches of sky; transformed our knowledge of black holes; found dwarf planets with moons orbiting other stars; and measured precisely how fast the universe is expanding. In Handprints on Hubble, retired astronaut Kathryn Sullivan describes her work on the NASA team that made all of this possible. Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space, recounts how she and other astronauts, engineers, and scientists launched, rescued, repaired, and maintained Hubble, the most productive observatory ever built.
“To read [this book] is to marvel at what we have achieved in our nascent efforts to inhabit space, and to recognize that we have barely begun that quest.” —Nature
Learn more about the author on the MIT Press blog: MIT Press author Dr. Kathryn Sullivan shatters new records
Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt W. Beyer
A Hollywood biopic about the life of computer pioneer Grace Murray Hopper (1906–1992) would go like this: a young professor abandons the ivy-covered walls of academia to serve her country in the Navy after Pearl Harbor and finds herself on the front lines of the computer revolution. She works hard to succeed in the all-male computer industry, is almost brought down by personal problems but survives them, and ends her career as a celebrated elder stateswoman of computing, a heroine to thousands, hailed as the inventor of computer programming. Throughout Hopper’s later years, the popular media told this simplified version of her life story. In Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age, Kurt Beyer reveals a more authentic Hopper, a vibrant and complex woman whose career paralleled the meteoric trajectory of the postwar computer industry.
“Beyer’s meticulously researched biography shows how Hopper was one of the first to realize that software was the key to unlocking the power of the computer.” —The Guardian
Sharing the Work: What My Family and Career Taught Me about Breaking Through (and Holding the Door Open for Others) by Myra Strober
Myra Strober became a feminist on the Bay Bridge, heading toward San Francisco. It is 1970. She has just been told by the chairman of Berkeley’s economics department that she can never get tenure. Driving home afterward, wondering if she got something out of the freezer for her family’s dinner, she realizes the truth: she is being denied a regular faculty position because she is a mother. Flooded with anger, she also finds her life’s work: to study and fight sexism, in the workplace, in academia, and at home.
“Myra Strober’s Sharing the Work is the memoir of a woman who has learned that ‘having it all’ is only possible by ‘sharing it all,’ from finding a partner who values your work as much as you do, to fighting for family-friendly policies… Both women and men will find a friend in these pages.” —Gloria Steinem
Lessons from the Lobster: Eve Marder’s Work in Neuroscience by Charlotte Nassim
Neuroscientist Eve Marder has spent forty years studying thirty neurons on the stomach of a lobster. Her focus on this tiny network of cells has yielded valuable insights into the much more complex workings of the human brain; she has become a leading voice in neuroscience. In Lessons from the Lobster, Charlotte Nassim describes Marder’s work and its significance accessibly and engagingly, tracing the evolution of a supremely gifted scientist’s ideas.
“A nuanced portrait of an inspired scientist at work.” —Nature
When Marina Abramović Dies: A Biography by James Westcott
When Marina Abramović Dies examines the extraordinary life and death-defying work of one of the most pioneering artists of her generation—and one who is still at the forefront of contemporary art today. This intimate, critical biography chronicles Abramović’s formative and until now undocumented years in Yugoslavia, and tells the story of her partnership with the German artist Ulay—one of the twentieth century’s great examples of the fusion of artistic and private life.
“Illuminating, well illustrated, and extremely thorough. It is also a great read.” —Elizabeth Otto, Women’s Art Journal
Women of Science Tarot by Massive Science
Women of Science Tarot is a card game that helps us tell stories about our future based on principles of science. Each major arcana card features a fundamental scientific concept like extinction, diversity, or gravity. The 56 minor arcana cards feature inspirational women who have changed the course of STEM. The lively illustrations are by neuroscientist and comic artist Matteo Farinella. For readers new to tarot or those who want to learn more about women in STEM, accompanying the deck is a guidebook with biographies of all the women featured on the cards as well as information about the major arcana cards.
“Farinelli’s illustrations are truly amazing.” —Boing Boing