So how did I wind up in science when I was a girl? Here’s the story I figured out about what happened: I recall being about 10 years old, listening to a friend of my father’s telling me about “when I was a boy…..” The specifics of his narrative are lost to me now, but I remember thinking while he was talking, “His childhood is not like the childhood I know. He’s not remembering it correctly.” I figured that I was an expert on that subject because I actually was a child at the time. In that moment, I made a covenant with myself that I would never forget what it is like to be a child. (Most good children’s book authors write for the child they were, as do I.) I had independent thoughts, which I kept to myself, including thinking I was smart. And I wondered how I would ever reach a point when people might listen to me when I shared my thoughts. After all, I was only a girl and had internalized the zeitgeist that boys were smarter than girls. Would my ideas ever be of any interest to anyone else?
I discovered science in the seventh grade. I was blown-away by its authority. The big ideas of science were backed by empirical evidence that any doubter could verify for herself by replicating procedures. I struggled to understand it on my own, reading The Universe and Dr. Einstein, by Lincoln Barnett when I was twelve. If I talked about science, I wasn’t sharing my ideas. I was speaking truth. Thus, the authority of science became mine. When I went to college, I was advised not to go into science because they didn’t want to waste that kind of education on a girl who would marry, have kids, and probably never use it. When I transferred to Barnard, a woman’s college, I became a Zoology major because I hadn’t taken the prerequisites for a physical science major. I once thought that if I had to do it over again I would become a physicist. But, be reassured, I have no regrets about my career choice.
If you’ve read this far, it’s obvious that at least you are interested in what I have to say.