5 Great Books about Women in Mathematics

All of March, I will write about different aspects related to women in mathematics, how they have influenced mathematics and the world around them. Therefore, today I will talk about 5 great books about women in mathematics. Enjoy!

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

I have been talking about this book a couple of times already and I still believe it is a great one. The book covers multiple social problems and it gives a good perspective of what these women have been through to succeed.

General description: Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians know as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women. Originally math teachers in the South’s segregated public schools, these gifted professionals answered Uncle Sam’s call during the labour shortages of World War II. With new jobs at the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia, they finally had a shot at jobs that would push their skills to the limits.

Complexities: Women in Mathematics by Bettye Anne Case

This captivating book gives voice to women mathematicians from the late eighteenth century through to the present day. It documents the complex nature of the conditions women around the world have faced–and continue to face–while pursuing their careers in mathematics. The earlier parts of the book provide historical context and perspective, beginning with excursions into the lives of fifteen women born before 1920. Included are histories of collective efforts to improve women’s opportunities in research mathematics. In addition, a photo essay puts a human face on the subject as it illustrates women’s contributions in professional associations.

More than eighty women from academe, government, and the private sector provide a rich melange of insights and strategies for creating workable career paths while maintaining rewarding personal lives. The book discusses related social and cultural issues, and includes a summary of recent comparative data relating to women and men in mathematics and women from other sciences. First-person accounts provide explicit how-tos; many narratives demonstrate great determination and perseverance. Talented women vividly portray their pleasure in discovering new mathematics. The senior among them speak out candidly, interweaving their mathematics with autobiographical detail. At the beginning of a new century, women at all stages of their careers share their outlooks and experiences.

Power in Numbers: The Rebel Women of Mathematics by Talithia Williams

This is a full-color volume that takes aim at the forgotten influence of women on the development of mathematics over the last two millennia. You’ll see each eminent mathematician come to life on each page, women like the astronomer-philosopher Hypatia, theoretical physicist Emmy Noether, and rocket scientist Annie Easley. The book is divided in three parts: I – The Pioneers, II – From Code Breaking to Rocket Science and III – Modern Math Mavens, detailing the careers and achievements of thirty women scientists, with brief mention of few others.

Moreover, Talithia Williams (the author) has a Ph.D. in Statistics. She is an advocate for engaging more women in engineering and science and was the first African-American woman to achieve tenure at Harvey Mudd College.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

This is the only book in this list that is focused on women in science and not just mathematics, but I believe that all the sciences nowadays have more mathematics in it then some people want to accept. Therefore, I believe it deserves a place in this list.

General description: A charmingly illustrated and educational book, it highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary. The trailblazing women profiled include well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon.


Notable Women in Mathematics: A Biographical Dictionary by Teri Perl

Last but not least, a proper biographical dictionary. Even though this was published in 1998, I still believe it is an incredible addition to everyone’s bookshelves.

General description: This volume features substantive biographical essays on 59 women from around the world who have made significant contributions to mathematics from antiquity to the present. Designed for secondary school students and the general public, each profile describes major life events, obstacles faced and overcome, educational and career milestones–including a discussion of mathematical research in non-technical terms–and interests outside of 2 promotics. Although the collection includes historical women, the emphasis is on contemporary mathematicians, many of whom have not been profiled in any previous work. The work also celebrates the contributions of minority women, including 10 African-American, Latina, and Asian mathematicians.



Hope you enjoyed this short post. Did you read any of these books? What do you think about them? If you are a book worm like me and enjoy mathematics, check our book club on Goodreads. Also, if you have ideas for future blog posts, let us know. Don’t forget to check our last post: Edinburgh International Science Festival. You can find us on Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,   Twitter and  Instagram (we hope you are enjoying all the short posts about women in mathematics). We will try to post there as often as possible.

Lots of love and don’t forget that maths is everywhere! Enjoy!

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