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Response to Review no. 651

I should like to thank Claire Jones for her generous review which captures so well the essence of what I was trying to do. She kindly says that it would be ‘unreasonable and ungenerous’ to expect me to cover all topics of relevance to women and science; certainly, in a book that had already expanded beyond its original remit, I had to be selective. I am very pleased to see further work on aspects of this significant issue constantly emerging, and given that I am increasingly conscious that the hitherto under-explored area of female scientific history gives a new resonance to both scientific and gender history, I should like to use this opportunity to urge more such studies.

Certainly, I finished my book very much aware of further areas that needed to be investigated. I had known from the beginning that I was constrained by my linguistic limitations to a western/largely English-speaking bias and soon realised, anyway, that it was impossible in one book to explore and compare in depth the same issues in many countries in different periods. It would be useful to bring together the experiences of women in European countries to understand ‘western’ science further, but there is also a great need for more studies examining women in science beyond the western world. Added to this, there should be greater understanding of both the effects of imperialism on scientific endeavour and of racial barriers in science. Even within just British history, there is very little on the past experiences of women in science from minority groups. I did discover the disproportionate number of Jews among leading female scientists, as among male, in 20th-century western history and this too could do with closer examination.

Generally, I hope that the book adds greater appreciation of women as knowledge-makers and -bearers and of the way that they have been part of a community of knowledge which is built up gradually and from all kinds of skills and experiences rather than just through single discoveries by one or two great minds at fixed points in time. This, together with greater understanding both of the way gender prejudices have integrated with ‘scientific reason’ no less than in other areas and of how this has affected professional and economic progress for women, hopefully, will help ease the difficulties often still surrounding the issue of girls and women in science today.