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CWIS: Christian Women in Science
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Christian Women in Science, Technology and Engineering

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Alice C. Linsley

  

Today there are equal opportunities for women to receive the education and training necessary to advance in the many fields of science. It has been claimed, however, that in the past women played a minimal role in Science and the contribution of Christian women is even more minimal due to male dominance in the Church. While science has certainly been dominated by men, there is no doctrine or tradition in Christianity that inhibits women from being involved in science. If men have dominated, it is because in centuries past they were the ones who received the more advanced education.

It is also likely that the contributions of women in science and technology have been overlooked rather consistently by both secular historians and Christian historians. If the historian is looking for inventions and discoveries that bring about paradigm shifts, they will miss the contributions of many women. For centuries, women were discovering the healing properties of plants (pyto-medicine), experimenting in chemistry to create dyes (biblical Lydia), and exploring methods for creating fibers and developing textile technologies. They invented things like buttons and butter churns, but these do not lead to paradigm shifts, only to an improved quality of life.

This segment of "Christian Women in Science, Technology and Engineering” focuses on three women who left a mark in Science and who were known to be women of faith: St. Hildegard, Maria Agnesi, and Mary Anning.


Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) was a Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, polymath, and perhaps Germany's first female physician. She conducted and comprehensive studies of the medicinal properties of herbs and minerals, and wrote Physica, a text on the natural sciences. She founded two monasteries; one at Rupertsberg in 1150 and the other at Eibingen in 1165. 

Attention to women of the medieval Church has led to interest in Hildegard, particularly her musical compositions which represent one of the largest repertoires among medieval composers.

On 7 October 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named her a Doctor of the Church.

 

Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718 – 1799) was an Italian mathematician and philosopher. She is credited with writing the first book discussing both differential and integral calculus and was an honorary member of the faculty at the University of Bologna.

Maria was a child prodigy.  She could speak both Italian and French at five years of age. By her thirteenth birthday she had acquired Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, German, and Latin. When she was nine, she composed and delivered an hour-long speech in Latin to some of the most distinguished intellectuals of the day. 

She devoted the last four decades of her life to studying theology, the writing of the Church Fathers, and to serving the poor.

 

Mary Anning (1799 – 1847) was a British fossil collector and paleontologist who became known for important finds she made in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis in Dorset, where she lived. Her work contributed to fundamental changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth. Mary's work drew considerable attention in England as most people believed in a young Earth and regarded this to be a Biblical view.

Fossil collecting was a popular pastime in the late 18th and early 19th century, but gradually developed into a science as the importance of fossils to geology and biology became better understood. Anning searched for fossils in the area's Blue Lias cliffs, particularly during the winter months when landslides exposed new fossils that had to be collected quickly before they were lost to the sea. It was dangerous work, and she nearly lost her life in 1833 during a landslide.

In 2010, the Royal Society included Anning in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.

Mary Anning, though raised Congregationalist, regularly worshiped with her family in the Anglican Church.

 

 Watch for Part II - More Christian Women in Science, Technology and Engineering.


Tags:  Hildegard  Maria Agnesi  Mary Anning 

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