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Out of the Shadows

Juliet Lee-Franzini was one of forty prominent women physicists selected to be the subjects of the book “Out of the Shadows: Contributions of Twentieth-Century Women to Physics,” edited by Nina Byers and Gary Williams, published by Cambridge University Press in 2006. The goals of this book were to bring out of the shadows “the female pioneers who overcame discrimination and became major players in their fields” and to document their original, important research; to bear witness to the “importance of their work, achievements and contributions to science.” As Paolo Franzini is the author of this article, we are allowed to reproduce it here (embedded article below). Some illustrative quoted extracts from Prof. Byers’ preface to the book, as well as a statistical note illustrating how these women are pioneers, are included below the embedded article.

While this book is not available for consultation on the internet (beyond a brief partial preview here), it is a successor to Prof. Byers’ website (started in 1995), Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics, “An Archive Presenting and Documenting Some Important and Original Contributions made before 1976 by 20th Century Women.” J L-F’s page on the CWP website.

A statistical note illustrating how these women are pioneers: from the AIP article, Women in Physics and Astronomy, 2019: “In 2017, women earned 21% of physics bachelors’ degrees and 20% of physics doctorates. … In 2014, 16% of physics faculty members and 19% of astronomy faculty members were women … women occupied only 10% of full professor positions.”[1] Figure 1 in this article shows that in 1960, when J L-F got her Ph. D. 1% of physics doctorates were awarded to women. This article does not give 20th century numbers for physics faculty, but states that, among physics departments granting doctorates, from 2002 to 2014, the percentage of physics faculty members who are women rose from 7% to 14%. J L-F became faculty (Assistant Professor) in 1963, and became a full professor in 1974.

[1] (These statistics reference the United States).

Quotes from Prof. Byers’ introduction to “Out of the Shadows:”

“People tend to think that physicists are men. This book will help to bring a more gender-balanced perception of physicists. You will find here detailed descriptions of important, original contributions made by women in the century from 1876 to 1976. Many female physicists and mathematicians, historically excluded from participation in science, emerged in this time….The discoveries [discussed in this book] are well established and fundamental to modern physics. It is not well known, however, that they were made by women.”

“For a number of years I taught a course at UCLA entitled “Women in Physics and Mathematics,” which drew young men and women interested in science.”

“These women emerged as scientists in a historical period in which opportunities for women to study and work were opening up in Europe and America. All were encumbered with serious gender discrimination in one form or another, which generally hindered their ability to get on with their work.”

“This book grows out of a website (see note 2), which was begun in 1995 to mark the occasion of the centenary of the American Physical Society (1899-1999). Asked to compile a list of distinguished female physicists to be included with distinguished male physicists in a poster to mark the occasion, my colleague Steve Moszkowski and I expected to make up a list of 15 or 20. For completeness I posted on the World Wide Web a request to colleagues around the world for nominations to the list. To our astonishment more than 200 nominations came in … The nominations contained documentary evidence of notable contribution. We wished to restrict our attention at first to those who could be regarded as original and important contributions. … Help was needed, and a project funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the University of California, the American Physical Society, Joan Palevsky and other donors at UCLA, was initiated to research and document accomplishments of women who have made original and important contributions to physics …. We were able to create web pages for 83 outstanding women. In doing the historical research we came into contact with colleagues who had known and worked with many of the women. Margaret O’Gorman, then Editor of the Book Division of the Institute of Physics Press (IOPP}, commissioned these scientists and others intimately familiar with the achievements of 40 of the women to write about them for a companion volume for the second edition of IOPP’s Twentieth Century Physics, and I agreed to work with her as an editor. Because of the authors’ deep and intimate knowledge of the women’s scientific achievements, the chapters are unique contributions to scientific literature and the history of physics. … IOPP’s plan to publish the second edition of Twentieth Century Physics and this companion to it did not materialize but, fortunately, the nearly complete collection of essays was taken in for publication by Cambridge University Press. This book will fill a gap in scientific literature by virtue of the completeness and scientific accuracy of its descriptions of important discoveries.”