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Title: Science with a Passion: Incidental Careers and Planned Experiments
Contributor(s): Kaplan, Gisela  (author); Rogers, Lesley  (author)
Publication Date: 2003
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Abstract: Last year we were invited to speak at a conference in Stockholm and afterwards we visited the museum devoted to displaying the history of the prize itself and all Nobel laureates. The museum has a small cinema playing film clips and interviews with the prize-winners. Although each vignette lasts for no more than a few minutes, it reveals a surprising amount of information about their personalities as well as information about their discoveries. We were fascinated. Did these eminent scientists have any characteristics in common? We listened especially to what the female prize-winners had to say. To date, there are only few women amongst the ranks of Nobel laureates but to us it seemed that their main secret to success was holding on to their ideas against opposition and, hand in hand with this, being able to stand-alone. The scientific life of Barbara McClintock might serve as a prime example of the capacity to follow one's own mind against the odds (Keller, 1983). She won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1983 for her visionary work showing genetic "transposition", which refers to her discovery that genetic elements can move from one site on a chromosome to another and even dissociate from one chromosome to be inserted in another. This introduced an entirely new conception of the genome as dynamic, rather than being a static linear message, and it placed more emphasis on environmental influences (both internal in the cell and external to it) than the central dogma allowed. Hers was a far less reductionist understanding of the flow of information. She worked on the cytogenetics of maize. Using techniques of analysis that were at the time considered to be unfashionable, in the 1950s and 1960s she swam against the current of the new molecular genetics, soldiering on while no one listened to her. In the interview on film she thanked the chairman of her department for allowing her to continue researching without interference. She worked in virtual isolation and, as she says, people thought she was doing odd things that were of no particular interest, but they let her get on with it.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: WISENet Journal, 62(WAIS 2 Special Edition), p. 37-41
Publisher: Women in Science Enquiry Network Inc
Place of Publication: Australia
ISSN: 1440-0006
Field of Research (FOR): 169901 Gender Specific Studies
Socio-Economic Outcome Codes: 939904 Gender Aspects of Education
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C2 Non-Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Science and Technology

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