Being curious living things, human beings have always questioned the world and the universe. Either women or men, people have searched for more knowledge since prehistoric times. Science in the early times started with scholars and their schools of teaching and thinking. In those times, science was mostly to understand more basic entities in the world as compared today’s science, which tries to understand from the smallest part of the universe to the whole universe. Looking science with this approach, science should be a concern for everybody.
However, there have been some branches of academia regarded as masculine, like mathematics, physics and some feminine like psychology and literature. According to Wiesner (2002), these distinctions are due to cultural norms, technological developments; religious and intellectual currents, economic institutions, and popular beliefs. Science, likewise being the money-supplier of family, had been men’s work many times in the history. For instance, from the fourteenth to mid-eighteenth century, Europe women could not be employed in occupations requiring university or former education, even education was thought to be needless for women (Wieser, 2002).
However, this does not imply that women had never dealt with scientific issues. Besides, there had been women since antiquity dealing with either masculine or feminine branches. For example, Eccello of Lucania is a mathematician and natural philosopher from fourth century B. C. ; Abrotelia is a Greek Pythagorean philosopher from fifth century; lived in fourteenth century Catherine of Siena, a medical women and Gilette of Narbonne, a daughter of a physician, is a physician (Ogilvie and Harvey, 2000). Actually, science has been a matter for all people since it affects
everyone’s life and this fact is more understood in the last century, as more women is occupied in academics besides many men. Taking all these into account, this paper will explain how women attempted to science and academia and discuss increasing number of women scientists in Turkey, Finland and Soviet Russia, their motivating factors and obstacles in their scientific and social lives; exaggerated and hidden reasons. Searching throughout the history, women’s attempts for scientific issues were not striking until the best known women scientist Marie Curie, with her Nobel Prize in
Physics and Chemistry, at the beginning of the twentieth century. Since then, there had been ten other women scientists having Nobel Prize in scientific topics of physics, chemistry, medicine and physiology (McGrayne, 1996). Moreover, there had been other attempts of women, one of which is the Manhattan Project throughout the World War 2. (Howes and Herzenberg, 1999). Since studies of radioactivity and atomic bomb are considered as men’s work, striking heroes were male physicists who were not working alone.
In fact, Howes and Herzenberg (1999) state various people working in the project from different countries and most of which were women, studying as physicists, chemists, mathematicians, biologists and medical scientists. Moreover, a woman, Lise Meitner provided the first explanation of nuclear fission (Howes, and Herzenberg, 1999). However, this great percentage of women in a scientific project did not imply that women were accepted as authorities in their fields. Pointing out women’s effort to continue studying on their fields, the authors express the idea with which some women scientists’ come across as;
“no matter how good a woman was, she was out of job when the men came home” (Howes and Herzenberg, 1999). Even tough the women were eager to study science compared to previous times, the society; American society for this case, still had patriarchal ideas and norms. Therefore, women appearing in the science history before twentieth century and in early twentieth century were involved in science primarily as a result of lack of men in the issue Increasing interest of women in science has been responded mostly in the mid and late twentieth century, especially in Turkey, Finland and Soviet Russia.
Because women were more interested and supported by authorities, the number of women scientists noticeably increased in the last two centuries as Ogilvie and Harvey show in their list of women scientists according to centuries (2000). Moreover, Acar (1991) states that “… historical trends show that women’s participation in most scientific fields in the academic world -despite occasional fluctuations- has been increasing since the 1940s. ” (Acar, 1991).