From medieval times, women have played considerable scientific roles. Diverse historians with research interests in science along with gender focus on women’s scientific attainments and endeavors. As well, the historians concentrate on the challenges faced by women in pursuing the endeavors. The sociological, critical, as well as historical, consideration of the challenges is now an established academic discipline (Greenstadt, 2010; Whaley, 2003). There are records of women’s involvement in science stretching from the times of several early civilizations, including medieval Egypt. Merit-Ptah is the earliest recognized female physician, or scientist, globally. In about 2700 BC, she was the chief physician of medieval Egypt. Over time, women have had increasing roles in the advancement of scientific research as well as development. Even then, their scientific contributions only started getting ample recognition in the latter decades of the 20th century. Regardless of the challenges female scientists face even in contemporary times, more and more of them are venturing into science (Kass-Simon & Farnes, 1993). This paper explores the roles played by females in science, particularly in the 18th century and in contemporary times.
Women’s Roles in 18th Century’s Scientific Revolution
For the most part of the 18th century, there were three general perspectives regarding women. First, women were taken as socially, as well as intellectually, subservient to men. Second, women and men were seen as different while equal. Third, women and men were viewed as potentially having equal intellectual abilities (Kass-Simon & Farnes, 1993; Whaley, 2003). Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other Jacobin Club philosophers appeared convinced that all women’s functions were restricted to serving men and motherhood. Even then, the Enlightenment era saw the scientific roles of women expand significantly. Notably, Rousseau’s political persuasions and philosophy led to the general evolution of the contemporary educational, sociological, as well as political, thought (Kass-Simon & Farnes, 1993).
The development of the European salon culture saw the rise of platforms where women met men to debate, as well as discuss, contemporary scientific along with socio-political subjects. They met in inspiring salon settings to enhance their collective scientific proficiency via conversations. Notably, Italians invented the settings in mid-16th century. In the 18th century, the culture flourished across France. Women developed salon etiquette rules to guide the conversations (Kass-Simon & Farnes, 1993). Such rules took after the earlier Italian chivalry codes. Rousseau criticized the salons, especially the ones dominated by women, as generating men who were evidently effeminate. He asserted that such men stifled objective scientific discourse. Even then, more and more men continued to frequent the salons. The salons enabled women to have increasing influence on philosophy, mathematics, botany as well as physics (Whaley, 2003).
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