(Suggested writing time—45 minutes)
Percent of Section II score —45
following question is based on the accompanying Documents 1-13. (Some of the
documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise.) Write your answer
on the lined pages of the pink essay booklet.
This question is designed to test your ability to work with historical documents. As you analyze the documents, take into account both the sources of the documents and the authors’ points of view. Write an essay on the following topic that integrates your analysis of the documents; in no case should documents simply be cited and explained in a laundry list fashion. In your interpretation of the documents you may refer to relevant historical acts and developments not mentioned in the documents.
Analyze and discuss attitudes and reactions toward the participation of women in the sciences during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
While rarely acknowledged, women actively participated in scientific research in chemistry, astronomy, biology, botany, physics, and medicine. Although most European universities and academies of science excluded women entirely, in Italy a few women held professorships in science and mathematics. Women translated scientific works on physics, astronomy, entomology, and anatomy; they also participated in scientific discussions held in salons.
She was so deeply
engaged in astronomical speculation that she neglected her household. The
daylight hours she spent, for the most part, in bed because she had tired
herself from watching the stars at night.
-Johann Eberti, describing the German astronomer Marie Cunitz, whose 1650 book on astronomical tables clarified the work of Johannes Kepler
When I began this
little treatise, it was solely for my own satisfaction. I objected to myself
that it was not the profession of a lady to teach; that she should remain
silent, listen and learn, without displaying her own knowledge. On the other
hand, I flattered myself that I am not the first lady to have had something
published; that minds have no sex and that if the minds of women were cultivated
like those of men, they would be equal to the minds of the latter.
-Marie Meurdrac, French scientist, foreword to her Chemistry Simplified for Women, 1666
After dinner, I walked
to a meeting of the Royal Society of Scientists in expectation of the Duchess of
Newcastle [author of A World Made by Atomes, 1653], who had desired to be
invited to the Society. She was invited after much debate, pro and con; it seems
many being against it. The Duchess hath been a good, comely woman; but her dress
so antique and her deportment so ordinary, that I do not like her at all, nor
did I hear her say anything that was worth hearing.
-Samuel Pepys, English diarist, 1667
Johannes and Elisabetha Hevelius using a sextant to
collaborate on astronomical research.
-Johannes Hevelius, The Heavenly Machine, 1673
my youth, I have studied insects. When I realized that butterflies and moths
develop more quickly than other caterpillars, I collected all the caterpillars
that I could find, in order to observe their metamorphosis. Thus, I withdrew
from human society and engaged exclusively in these investigations. In addition,
I learned the art of drawing so that I could draw and describe them as they were
-Maria Sibylla Merian, German entomologist, Wonderful Metamorphoses and Special Nourishment of Caterpillars, 1679
Early in the morning (about 2:00 am.), the sky was clear and starry. Some nights before, I had observed a variable star, and my wife (as I slept) wanted to find and see it for herself. In so doing, she found a comet in the sky. At which time she woke me, and I found that it was indeed a comet. I was surprised that I had not seen it the night before.
-Gottfried Kirch, German astronomer, husband of Maria Winkelmann, 1680
I have often thought
that women of elevated mind advance knowledge more properly than do men. Women,
whose position puts them above troublesome and laborious cares, are more
detached and therefore more capable of contemplating the good and the beautiful.
-Gottfried Leibniz, German mathematician and philosopher, 1697
I do not believe that
Maria Winkelmann should continue to work on our official calendar of
observations. It simply will not do. Even before her husband’s death, the
Academy was ridiculed because its calendar was prepared by a woman. If she were
to be kept on in such a capacity, mouths would gape even wider.
Johann Theodor Jablonski, secretary to the
Berlin Academy of Sciences, letter to the
-Academy president opposing Maria Winkelmann’s application for membership in the Academy. 1710
Some will feel as if I
declare war on men [by practicing medicine] or at least attempt to deprive them
of their privilege. Many of my own sex will think I place myself above them.
-Dorothea Erxleben, first woman to be granted a German M.D. (University of Halle), Inquiry into the Causes Preventing the Female Sex from Studying, 1742
Learned women attract little attention as long as they limit their study to music and the arts. When a woman dares to attend a university, however, or qualifies for and receives a doctorate, she attracts a great deal of attention. The legality of such an undertaking must be investigated.
-Johann Junker, head of the University of Halle, a German university, 1745
Do not reproach me for
my work on translating Newton’s Principia. Never have I made a greater sacrifice
to Reason. I get up at nine, sometimes at eight. I work till three; then I take
coffee; I resume work at four; at ten I stop to eat a morsel alone; I talk till
midnight with Voltaire, who comes to have supper with me, and at midnight I go
to work again, and keep on till five in the morning. I must do this or lose the
fruit of my labors if I should die in childbirth.
-Marquise Emilie du Châtelet, French aristocrat and scientist, letter to the Marquis Jean François de Saint-Lambert, 1749
Women should not study
medicine and astronomy. These subjects fall beyond their sphere of competence.
Women should be satisfied with the power that their grace and beauty give them
and not extend their empire to include medicine and astronomy.
-Marie Thiroux d’Arconville, French anatomical illustrator, in her preface, Thoughts on Literature, Morals, and Physics, 1775
one thinks of a learned woman as neurotic. And should she ever go beyond the
study of literature into higher sciences, one knows in advance that her clothing
will be neglected and her hair will be done in antiquarian fashion. She forces
her way into circles of men for whom she is nothing more than a book. For
Mademoiselle Schlozer, this is not at all the case. She sews, knits, and
understands household economy perfectly well. One must gain her confidence
before one comes to know the scholar in her.
-Gottingen newspaper article describing Dorothea Schlozer, the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from a German university, 1787