Saturday, February 10, 2018

Five Fabulous Female Scientist Biographies

Margarita Engle, author
Julie Paschkis, illustrator

Publisher Summary:  
In the Middle Ages, people believed that insects were evil, born from mud in a process called spontaneous generation. Maria Merian was only a child, but she disagreed.  She studied caterpillars in secret, for the neighbors would have accused her of witchcraft if they knew.

Maria watched carefully as her caterpillars spun themselves cocoons, which opened to reveal summer birds, or butterflies and moths.  She saw the whole life cycle of the summer birds and documented what she learned in vibrant paintings. 

This is the story of one young girl who took the time to observe and learn, and in so doing, disapproved a theory that went all the way back to ancient Greece. 

Why It’s Fabulous:
Most of the story is about Maria as a young girl who observes, questions, and explores. Interwoven in the narrative is some basic information about butterflies and their life cycle as well as bit of medieval history. Not only does Maria have a scientific mind, but she also she has artistic talent.  Using her keen sense of observation, she paints insects, plants, and other creatures. One of the best parts of the book is Julie Paschkis’ meticulous and vibrant illustrations. Maria’s life demonstrates to children that they do not have to wait until they are adults to engage in scientific discovery and artistic exploration.  Most importantly, they can overcome prejudice and ignorance to make a difference in the world

Jess Keating, author
Marta Alvarez Miguens, illustrator

Publisher Summary:
This is the story of a woman who dared to dive, defy, discover, and inspire.  This is the story of the Shark Lady.

Eugenia Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium.  She couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures.  But Eugenia quickly discovered that many people believe sharks to be ugly and scary, and they didn’t think women should be scientists.

Determined to prove them wrong, Eugenie devoted her life to learning about sharks…Through her accomplishments, she taught the world that sharks were to be admired rather than feared—and that women can do anything they set their minds to.

Why It’s Fabulous:
This biography presents a fascinating picture of a determined and fearless woman.  Eugenia boldly went where few dared to plunge—in the ocean to study sharks.  In the process, she discovered new ocean species and information about sharks.  She followed her childhood dream, and in the process, changed the way the world saw sharks.  The vivid illustrations add to the engaging story of Eugenia Clark’s accomplishments.

Emily Arnold McCully, author & illustrator

Publisher Summary:
In 1786, Caroline Herschel became the first woman to discover a comet.  She was also the first woman ever to be paid for scientific research.

But no one who knew Caroline as a child could possibly have predicted her stellar future.  Illness scarred her face and stunted her growth.  Her mother didn’t want Caroline to be educated and insisted that Caroline’s role in life was to be the family’s housekeeper.

Through words, including excerpts from Caroline Herschel’s diary, and pictures, bring Caroline’s inspirational story to life.

Why It’s Fabulous:
Despite numerous challenges and constraints, Caroline (along with her brother) laid the foundation for future astronomers.  Their detailed observations and calculations endowed astronomy with a status equal to other fields.  Refusing to settle for just being her brother’s assistant, her work and boldness earned her a salary from the King.  As a result, she is known as the first profession woman scientist.  Her story of overcoming great odds and devoting her life to her passion is sure to inspire readers.

Laurie Wallmark, author
Katy Wu, illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Meet Grace Hopper:  the woman who revolutionized computer coding.

An ace inventor, groundbreaker, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she coined the term “computer bug” and developed the program that taught computers to recognize words and not just endless O’s and I’s.  Laurie Wallmark tells the inspirational story of this brilliant woman who had a passion for science and math and the firm belief that new solutions to problems were not found by those who said, “We’ve always done it this way.”

Why It’s Fabulous:
In a time when woman rarely studied science and math, Grace became a leader in an emerging field—computer science.  She was determined.  Despite some initial set backs in her education and career, she did not give up until she achieved her goals. Also, she had an insatiable curiosity to solve problems.  She fought against conventional thinking.  For instance, she would doodle fantastic creatures to help her think outside the box when she had a problem to solve.  Among other things, her innovations helped programmers write code more quickly.  (Bonus:  You will learn how the term “computer bug” came about.)  Her contributions continue to positively impact both men and women in the field. Grace was an amazing and inspiring figure. 

Robert Burleigh, author
Raul Colon, illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Marie Tharp was always fascinated by the ocean. Taught to think big by her father who was a mapmaker, Marie wanted to do something no one had ever done before: map the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Was it even possible? Not sure if she would succeed, Marie decided to give it a try.

Throughout history, others had tried and failed to measure the depths of the oceans. Sailors lowered weighted ropes to take measurements. Even today, scientists are trying to measure the depth by using echo sounder machines to track how long it would take a sound wave sent from a ship to the sea floor to come back. But for Marie, it was like piecing together an immense jigsaw puzzle.

Despite past failures and challenges—sometimes Marie would be turned away from a ship because having a woman on board was “bad luck”—Marie was determined to succeed.

Why It’s Fabulous:
Like the other women on this list, Marie overcame discrimination in her field.  Though she had a job at a prestigious university, she often had to work “beneath” her skills and education.  However, she persevered and made friends. Eventually, she worked in collaboration with other scientists and mapped the ocean floor at a time when little was known about it.  She proved a much-disputed theory of her time—continental drift.  Her contribution to her field helped the world not just gain a map of the ocean floor, but learn more about how the Earth works. 

For more women in STEM biographies, click HERE.


  1. thank you for the recommendations! All of these sound amazing, it's incredible how many women did amazing things even when it was 'wrong' or they didn't have support.

  2. You are welcome. I hope you are able to check some of them out.


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