Beginning with mineralogy: Ellen Swallow Richards and earth system science
Jill S. Schneiderman, 2018. "Beginning with mineralogy: Ellen Swallow Richards and earth system science", Women and Geology: Who Are We, Where Have We Come From, and Where Are We Going?, Beth A. Johnson
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In this paper, I examine the work of Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards who is known more commonly to some individuals as the founder of the field of home economics. Richards’ first scientific studies focused on the compositions of ore minerals and later evolved into studies of water, air, and food quality. The first woman to earn a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she achieved the position of Instructor of Sanitary Chemistry there. Throughout her lifelong career as a scientist, Richards’ work ranged so widely that it is difficult to classify her among any particular group of scientists. Herein I focus on Richards’ scientific work within both the context of the existing knowledge of her time and twenty-first-century developments in science of “the environment.” Rather than reinscribe Richards as the doyen of home economics—an antiquated field of study—I trace her evolution as a scientist and resituate Richards as a source of inspiration for present-day earth scientists who dedicate themselves to the idea that scientific work should be undertaken for the public good.
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Women have been a part of the story of geology from the beginning, but they have struggled to gain professional opportunities, equal pay, and respect as scientists for decades. Some have been dismissed, some have been forced to work without pay, and some have been denied credit. This volume highlights the progress of women in geology, including past struggles and how remarkable individuals were able to overcome them, current efforts to draw positive attention and perceptions to women in the science, and recruitment and mentorship efforts to attract and retain the next generation of women in geology. Chapters include the first American women researchers in Antarctica, a survey of Hollywood disaster movies and the casting of women as geologists, social media campaigns such as #365ScienceSelfies, and the stories of the Association for Women Geoscientists and the Earth Science Women’s Network and their work to support and mentor women in geology.