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A World Without Women:
Why is it that Western science evolved as a thoroughly male-dominated enterprise? As philosopher Sandra Harding has noted, "women have been more systematically excluded from doing serious science than performing any other social activity except, perhaps, frontline warfare." In A World Without Women, David F. Noble provides the first full-scale investigation of the origins and implications of the masculine culture of Western science and technology, and in the process offers some surprising revelations.
Noble begins by showing that, contrary to the widely held notion that the culture of learning in the West has always excluded women--an assumption that rests largely upon the supposed legacy of ancient Greece--men did not thoroughly dominate intellectual life until the beginning of the second millennium of the Christian era. At this time science and the practices of higher learning became the exclusive province of the newly celibate Christian clergy, whose ascetic culture denied women a place in any scholarly enterprise. By the twelfth century, papal reform movements had all but swept away the material and ideological supports of future female participation in the world of learning; as never before, women were on the outside looking in. Noble further demonstrates that the clerical legacy of a world without women remained more or less intact through the Reformation, and permeated the emergant culture of science.
A World Without Women finally points to a dread of women at the core of modern scientific and technological enterprise, as these disciplines work to deprive one-half of humanity of its role in production (as seen in the Industrial Revolution's male appropriation of labor) and reproduction as well (the age-old quest for an artificial womb). It also makes plain the hypocrisy of a community that can honor a female scientist with a bronze bust, as England's Royal Society did for Mary Somerville in the mid-nineteenth century, yet deny her entry to the very meeting hall in which it enjoyed pride of place.
An important and often disturbing book, A World Without Women is essential reading for anyone concerned not only about the world of science, but about the world that science has made. [via]