Archive for the 'women in science' category

Support this Project: Science Wide Open: Children's Books about Women in Science

Every once in a while, I'm happy to use this blog to throw my support behind a worthy project. And there's nothing like children's science books about women in science!

Check out the Kickstarter for Science Wide Open: Children's Books about Women in Science, and consider joining me in helping this amazing project come to fruition.

Science Wide Open: Children's Books about Women in Science

When children ask questions, their whole world becomes their experiment

Kids ask a LOT of questions. The inquisitive star of Science Wide Open is no different! Her questions about how the world works guide each unique story, while the resulting narrative teaches some of the fundamentals of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

What is Science Wide Open

Science Wide Open is a children's book series. This is a series that... First, explains and teaches some basic concepts in chemistry, biology and physics in simple and memorable terms by using the natural questions and curiosity of a young child. Second, does so by highlighting some of the mind blowing scientific advancements made by women scientists throughout history. The current series consists of three books:

  • Book One -- Women in Chemistry
  • Book Two -- Women in Biology
  • Book Three -- Women in Physics

Inside these books

Each book in the Science Wide Open series consists of more than 32 full color pages, featuring 4-5 female scientists of diverse time periods and backgrounds as well answering questions like:

  • What is DNA?
  • Why do things fall down?
  • What is an Atom?
  • What is a Cell?

The beautiful artwork is accurate to the history and science it represents. The text is fun to read and easy to understand, and there’s even a glossary for curious kids (and adults) who want to delve deeper into the science!

Instill a Sense of Wonder and Possibility

Science Wide Open makes science accessible for all. You don’t need a science background to enjoy these books, but you’ll still appreciate them if you do. The series weaves narration, history, and science together to celebrate the power of curiosity and resilience.

Why these stories matter

If asked for a list of famous women in science, most people would start and end with Marie Curie. The truth is that countless women have made astonishing contributions to science, but many of their stories have been obscured or downplayed.

This is not the future we want for our kids.

Science Wide Open...

  • Engages readers in the amazing science behind how the world works in terms kids can understand and enjoy.
  • Introduces female role models for aspiring young scientists of any gender.
  • Shares inspirational stories of women who have changed the world through their scientific discoveries.

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Around the Web: Ada Lovelace Day, Wikipedia & Women in Science

My library is hosting a Ada Lovelace Day event tomorrow (ok, a little late...). Continuing in a tradition of having Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-a-thons, we're hosting our own Wikipedia Women in Science Edit-a-thon!

I've been doing a fair bit of reading over the last couple of years about Wikipedia culture and especially how it relates to the under-representation of women both as editors and as subjects of articles. So I thought I'd share some of my readings here with all of you.

Of course, this list is in no way comprehensive or complete. I welcome suggestions for further readings in the comments, either on edit-a-thons, women in science, Wikipedia culture or any of the intersections of those topics.


About Wikipedia Edit-a-thons


About Wikipedia and Editor Culture More Generally

I'm working on a LibGuide for the event which I'll post here once I make it live.

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Reading Diary: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua

Sydney Padua's The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is one of the most flat-out entertaining books I have read in a very long time.

You should buy this book. Your library should buy this book. Buy a copy of this book for all your friends.

What's all the fuss?

TTAoLaB is a graphic novelization of the lives of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, those wacky pioneers of computers and programming. But TTAoLaB isn't really just a novelization of their lives -- really only the first chapter or so pretends at any kind of historical accuracy. What it is is an imagineering of what their lives could have been like if Lovelace had lived longer and her and Babbage had actually been able to build and program their Analytical/Difference Engine. And used it to fight crime. In a wacky humourous absurdist sort of way. Kind of Terry Pratchett crossed with steampunk and a little Gibson and Sterling thrown in.

Like I said, only the first chapter really deals with the historical details of Lovelace and Babbage's lives but there is a fair bit more historical and technical details in the Appendices to round up more detail about especially Babbage's work on his various Engines.

The bulk of the book are the crime fighting graphic novel adventures of Lovelace and Babbage and their interactions with various real characters in Victorian England (including Victoria herself, natch). Padua's story telling style, both graphically and textually, is light-hearted and fun. She really paints a vivid picture of Lovelace and Babbage as oddball geniuses, headstrong and a bit full of themselves but full of contradictions. They are definitely better realized in fiction than any factual account I've read.

Padua laces her tale with footnotes and endnotes and footnotes for the endnotes. This serves two main purposes. Three really. First of all, the various notes are hilarious. They also provide a lot of historical and technical detail that would bog down the main narrative if she tried to jam it all in there. And perhaps most fittingly, in the way this note-iness echoes the conventions of Victorian writings, it brings some of the digressive, detail obsession of the Victorians recursively back around to the story about them.

A bit unusually among the science-themed graphic novels I review, TTAoLaB is much more fiction than fact. And that's a good thing in this particular case. Padua takes advantage of her storytelling talents to give us the bare bones of Lovelace and Babbage's lives via the notes and the appendices while using the narrative drive of the graphic stories to make us interested in learning about them. This is a great strategy, one that many science-themed graphic novels take advantage of, but that I've rarely seen done so well as in TTAoLaB. Perhaps this is a lesson for non-fiction graphic novel creators -- use a little more fiction to make your non-fiction go down easier!

I recommend this book without hesitation for any library that collects graphic novels. This would be a perfect fit for any high school or middle school library as well as public libraries of any size. Academic libraries that collect graphic novels (science-themed or not) or that have leisure reading collections would find an enthusiastic audience for TTAoLaB.

Padua, Syndey. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer. New York: Pantheon, 2015. 320pp. ISBN-13: 978-0307908278

(Review copy provided by publisher.)


Other science graphic novels and illustrated books I have reviewed:

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Reading Diary: The Boy who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham

There are two kinds of children's books: those that are aimed primarily at the kids themselves and those that are aimed at the adults that actually shell out the cash to pay for the books. There's certainly a lot of overlap -- books that kids love but that also catch the eyes, hearts & minds and wallets of the adults doing the shopping. But wander the aisles of your local bookstore and you'll see what I mean. Often beautifully illustrated, with a sophisticated artistic touch and a mature and serious topic, you can tell the books that are aimed at the parents and uncles and cousins and aunts and friends and neighbours and grandparents. Next to them are the fun, silly and truly childish books that appeal to the actual kids themselves. And the reverse, too, silly books that are aimed at what adults thinks of as childish concerns but that miss the mark. There are plenty of serious books that perfectly frame the real issues in kids' lives but are perhaps too "gritty" or "realistic" for adults to think that the kids in their lives would be ready or mature enough to understand them.

And now we come to the notion of a biographical kids book about a mathematician. It seems kind of counter-intuitive, of course, at first glance but then you remember that perhaps there are a few interesting oddballs among the mathematical ranks. Even among the oddballs, perhaps most wouldn't make for great stories for kids -- think Paul Dirac or Grigori Perelman for example. And then you remember Paul Erdős. And yeah, perfect.

And that brings us to the book at hand, The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham (ages 3-8).

A kids book about Paul Erdős actually kind of makes sense. Certainly he had his quirks and oddities, in fact his whole life was a bit of an oddity. Basically, he spent most of his adult life couch surfing from city to city, from the home of one mathematician to another, sleeping on their beds, eating their food and most of all, collaborating with them and producing scholarly papers by the ream. He's actually kind of famous for that habit of collaboration -- it's even spawned the famous Erdős Number (and variants like the Erdős-Bacon number), which calculates the degrees of collaborative separation between mathematicians and Erdős himself.

But, to once again somehow circle around to the main reason for this review, this bizarre idea of a kid's book about this eccentric mathematician. Does it work? Yes, actually it does. Not surprising, it's quirky and playful and a little nutty, and definitely plays up the more child-like aspects of Erdős's life and personality like his obsession of numbers and his playful disdain for everyday life and habits (and not the more adult sides, like his drug use). The book is actually quite light-hearted. LeUyen Pham's artwork very nicely picks up on the mathematical themes with lots of numbers and equations and visual hat-tips to math embedded in the various scenes. It's also clean and a bit retro even, not distracting at all from story.

The notes at the end explain a lot more about Erdős' life and math, something perhaps for the adults reading the book to pick up a bit more than the kids. Which cycles me even further back (recurses, maybe?) to the beginning of the review. Is this a kids book for kids or a kids book for adults? Eh, a little of both. Definitely not something just anybody would pick up for just any kid -- either the adult will likely have a math connection that they want to infect the kid with or perhaps some adult will recognize a kid with a math bug and research math-related kids books and find this one.

Which is kind of too bad. I think any kid would enjoy this book, as would any math-loving adult. It would make a great present for any family with a young kid or as a fun gift for any sciencey person in your life.

And to cycle even further back in time, I first heard about this book at the end of January, at the Ontatio Library Association SuperConference, in the exhibits room. The distributor for the book had a few copies on display and I tweeted a picture of the cover:

Which at one point was the top tweet for the conference! And luckily, while expressing my excitement over the book to the staff at the distributor's both, they were kind enough to give me the copy to take home. A favour I'm returning with this review. Trust me, it was tough waiting until the book was actually released to review it!

Of course, the book is titled The Boy who Loved Math. And we don't all have boys. What about girls that love math? Or who could love math if they had a book with a female role model? What books could we buy for them?

I have some suggestions, although not many that would be for girls in the 3-8 age range that the Erdős appeals to.

Further suggestions of books appealing to girls (and boys) are, of course, welcome in the comments.

Heiligman, Deborah and LeUyen Pham. The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos. New York: Roaring Book Press, 2013. 37pp. ISBN-13: 978-1596433076 (for ages 3-8)

(Advanced Reading Copy provided by publisher/distributer)

(A more math-centric review here.)

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Language, framing and women in computer science

As I ease myself back into the swing of things after a couple of weeks off and start to pay attention again to what's going on in the online world, I thought I'd bring this post to the attention of as wide an audience as possible.

It's The importance of language and framing, part eleventy-thousand by Amy Csizmar Dalal on her blog, This is what a computer scientist looks like.

Dalal draws a link between the decline in female CS enrollments since they peaked in the 1980s and the way we talk about entering the field in very competitive language rather than emphasizing mentoring or collaboration.

Framing matters. Language matters. We can be as inclusive and aware and welcoming as possible, but if we're not paying attention to the language we use--on our web sites, in our course descriptions, in how we talk about technology and its role in the world--we may end up shooting ourselves in the foot.

We're at an interesting point right now: enrollments in CS are on the rise, and more women are choosing to major in CS. We have a golden opportunity to learn from our mistakes of the past and keep the trends moving upward. Let's hope we're smart enough to not let history repeat itself.

I studied CS in the 1980s, more or less at that peak. My degree is from 1986. And I very clearly recall that the percentage of women in my program at Concordia was fairly high especially in the General Business Option, probably higher than it is there today.

Read the whole post. It's terrific.

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On women science bloggers, in chronological order #scio11

The women science bloggers conversation is getting so long and elongated, I thought it would be interesting and, I hope, useful to put all the posts in rough chronological order. By rough I mean that I haven't attempted to order the posts within each day of publication. Perhaps I'll take another pass at the list later on for that.

The original list of posts is here.

Yes, I'm a librarian and I do occasionally get these weird manias.

If I've made any mistakes or missed any posts that should be included here, please let me know in the comments.

Update 2011.01.31: Added "Women Science Bloggers" post.

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Around the Web: On women science bloggers

Jan 28 2011 Published by under blogging, scio11, so'11, social media, women in science

Since the Perils of blogging as a woman under a real name panel at ScienceOnline 2011 there's been quite a bit of commentary floating around the science blogosphere about how women are represented within that community.

A kind of introduction:

The perils women sciencebloggers face are not that different than those we face in the real world... though the exposure of the internet can occasionally make it less safe. And the risks that women avoid out in the world, are not unlike those we avoid in the blogosphere. That was one of many important conclusions made in the panel Sheril Kirshenbaum, Anne Jefferson, Joanne Manaster and I ran for the Sunday midday panel entitled "Perils of blogging as a woman under a real name." I believe Sheril was the one who first suggested the topic.

This panel ended up being a great experience, for several reasons. First, leading up to the session, I had the opportunity to meet with other women at the conference and discuss the topic. I found myself in large, women-only groups on a number of occasions (though I just realized, this happens to me a lot at academic conferences too: I think I avoid schmoozing with men more than I realize, a point I will return to later). Each time, I brought up the panel to hear what they had to say, and they made beautiful points, expressed legitimate frustrations, shared both good stories and horrible ones, and in general kicked ass. There were some seriously smart and savvy women at Science Online 2011.

I think the extended discussion across a whole range of blogs is interesting and valuable and well worth reading beyond the science blogosophere.

I've picked up as many of the posts as I could find, most of them from Kate Clancy's post. Thanks, Kate!

If you know of any posts I missed, please let me know in the comments.

FWIW, my list of science & technology librarian blogs is here (Friendfeed) and the Friendfeed group aggregating Women Scienceblogs here.

Added 2011.01.28:

Added 2011.01.30:

Added 2011.01.31:

Also worth noting, there's a page on the ScienceOnline 2011 wiki keeping track of these posts as well.

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From the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

This year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing took place this past week in Atlanta, GA.

I thought I'd gather together some small part of the blog posts I've been seeing floating around the Internets on this wonderful event.

Most of the blogs I link to have made multiple posts about the GHC -- poke around and check those out too.

The conference is on Twitter here and this year's hashtag is #ghc10 and the conference blog aggregation page is here.

It's definitely a conference I'd love to get to one of these days!

If I've missed any good posts, please leave the links in the comments.

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Recently in the ACM: Computer Science Education

A small selection from some tables of content from a few recent journals and proceedings. These will require subscription access to the ACM Digital Library.

Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education

Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, v25i4

SIGCSE Bulletin, v41i4

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Ada Lovelace Day: Jane of See Jane Compute

Wednesday was Ada Lovelace Day!

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science.

The first Ada Lovelace Day was held on 24th march 2009 and was a huge success. It attracted nearly 2000 signatories to the pledge and 2000 more people who signed up on Facebook. Over 1200 people added their post URL to the Ada Lovelace Day 2009 mash-up. The day itself was covered by BBC News Channel,, Radio 5 Live, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Metro, Computer Weekly, and VNUnet, as well as hundreds of blogs worldwide.

In 2010 Ada Lovelace Day will again be held on 24th March and the target is to get 3072 people to sign the pledge and blog about their tech heroine.

Ada Lovelace Day is organised by Suw Charman-Anderson, with design and development support from TechnoPhobia and hosting from UKHost4U.

I encourage you to check out the rather extensive list of posts celebrating women in science and technology. It's truly inspiring.

A couple of days late (as usual) I'd like to add a name to the list of women deserving of a bit of celebration: Jane of the sadly departed blog See Jane Compute (and here for deeper archives).

Way back in 2005 or so, See Jane Compute was the first science blog I started following regularly. Her keen insights into the world of computing was what first drew me in, but it was the warmth and personality of the blog that kept me coming back. I'd done a computing degree myself way back in the 1980s and I saw a lot of what I went through as a student mirrored oddly through her experiences as a prof.

Also, as a callow youth way back then, I don't think I realized the challenges that the women in my program faced just being there, and that's something that Jane's writing really brought home to me, hopefully making me much more aware and sensitive now.

Over time, we also became blog buddies. It was always a thrill to see Jane's name pop up in the comments because I knew that someone who cared about the computing field and the people in it was contributing.

Jane also let us all into her life, let us experience the ups and downs of academia, of being a woman in computing, of everyday life. As all friends are, I was thrilled and happy when Baby Jane came along bringing great joy to the Jane household. I was also dismayed by some of the ups and downs of academic life and the weird tenure process.

Unfortunately, Jane's voice is mostly silent now -- I'm happy to report that she does still show up in the comments occasionally (here, for example). I'll also have a small little regret -- See Jane Compute closed down on Science Blogs on May 5, 2009 while I joined only a couple of weeks later, on May 18. Longtime blog friends, we missed being blog siblings by only a whisker.

So, slightly late Happy Ada Lovelace Day! And take a minute to go read some terrific insights by one of the great women technology bloggers here and here. And check out the interview I did with her on my old blog.

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