Philosophical Society of Washington

4000 years of Women in Science

Sethanne Howard

2236th Meeting Abstract
Friday, March 28, 2008 at 8:15 PM


Science is a traditional role for women. For over 4,000 years of written history women have participated in this great human adventure. Science and technology are neither new nor difficult for women any more than they are for men. The stories of many of our scientists do not form part of our instruction in science from kindergarten through college. Missing from our textbooks and data are the fundamental contributions of scientists, both male and female but especially female. Female creativity and genius fill our technical past. The stories of these women not only provide role models for future scientists, but also they strengthen and broaden our ability to deal with the present. This talk will cover the exciting and enchanting history of women in science and technology, where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.

Sethanne Howard

About the Author:

Sethanne Howard is a research astronomer with over 40 years of experience in astronomy and education. Her research specialty is interacting galaxies but her avocation is the history of women in science. She has worked at many astronomical observatories and also for NASA, for the National Science Foundation and finally just retired as Chief of the Nautical Almanac Office at the US Naval Observatory in Washington, DC.

She is the first woman to receive a degree in physics from the University of California, Davis. She went on to receive a Master's Degree in nuclear physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a PhD in astrophysics from Georgia State University. Between her bachelor's degree and PhD she worked for many years in various scientific fields and taught high school physics and university astronomy. All those years of working in science led to a series of scientific publications including determining the rotational periods of Neptune and Uranus, the rotational temperature of Jupiter, masses of Seyfert galaxies, the total neutron cross section of uranium, as well as developing the early image processing in astronomy. Only at age 42 did she return to graduate school to complete her PhD studying large-scale computer simulations of interacting galaxies [she grew tired, you see, of staying up all night at telescopes]. Her dissertation explained the now accepted idea behind the appearance of the Whirlpool Galaxy, M51.

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