17 Books About Female Scientists That Will Take You On Adventures Through Nature, Time, And Space
Without a doubt, female scientists have had enormous impact on our understanding of the world and beyond. Yet, throughout the centuries much of their work has gone unrecognized, and even today, STEM fields are majority male. So, here are some books about female scientists that will remind you to celebrate the women who pursue these careers. This list includes plenty of biographies and memoirs of IRL scientists who made amazing discoveries. There's also a few absolutely unputdownable novels about female scientist characters.
You don't have to be interested in any realm of science to enjoy these books. The narratives are propulsive and gorgeously written, and you might discover that you're more interested in jellyfish or rocket science than you previously thought. Plus, it's beyond important that young women have visible role models in the scientific community. My hope is that on this list, you'll find a book with a female scientist who inspires you to pursue your passions, whatever they might be. After all, you don't have to be a scientist to be inspired by these women's stories. These books are filled with women — real and fictional — who are headstrong, brave, and dedicated to the pursuit of discovery. Reading about them is certain to set a fire in your belly:
'Lab Girl' by Hope Jahren
This beautiful memoir by Hope Jahren is a love-letter to biology. As Jahren details the story of her career, you'll find yourself enthralled by the way she makes science come alive.
'Spineless' by Juli Berwald
In this stunning memoir, Juli Berwald takes you into the wide, wonderful world of jellyfish. Yes, jellyfish, and yes, it's fascinating. Berwald tells the story of how, after leaving a career in ocean science, she developed an obsession with jellyfish that drew her back to the sea.
'Sleeping Giants' by Sylvain Neuvel
In this unforgettable novel, Rose, a physicist, leads a team of researchers determined to unlock the secrets of a mysterious, robotic hand that she stumbled upon as a young girl.
'Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars' by Nathalia Holt
This book tells the incredible story of the women who, in the '40s and '50s, worked as mathematicians in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where they laid the plans for the first rockets. Based on interviews with the living members of the team, this nonfiction book is a fascinating look at the women who shaped our understanding of space — but never got credit for it.
'Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis' by Kim Todd
In the 17th century, at the age of 50, naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian sailed from Europe to the New World on a solo scientific expedition to study insect metamorphosis, opening innumerable doors for the field of ecology. This is the story of that journey.
'The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World' by Shelley Emling
Did you know that the first dinosaur skeleton was discovered by a 12-year-old girl in 1811? That girl, Mary Anning, went on to become a fossil hunter who proved to the world that dinosaurs had gone extinct and laid the groundwork for Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
'The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer' by Sydney Padua
Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron and assistant to inventor Charles Babbage, is the mother of computer science, known for adding extensive notes to Babbage's designs for the first computer all the way back in 1842. In real life, Babbage and Lovelace never built any of their machines. But this wonderful graphic novel imagines what it would have been like if they had built their supercomputer, taking you on all kinds of adventures along the way.
'In the Shadow of Man' by Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall is obviously one of the most well-known female scientists, famous for her study of chimpanzees. This book, her account of living with primates, is a classic that you can't miss.
'Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World' by Rachel Swaby
Why read about one female scientist, when you can read about 52? This excellent book gives profiles on 52 women who have made incredible contributions to science, all of whom are sure to become your new role model.
'The Other Einstein' by Marie Benedict
This historical fiction novel zeroes in on a woman you may not have heard much about: Mileva “Mitza” Marić, Albert Einstein's first wife, who was a brilliant physicist in her own right. This enthralling novel sheds an interesting light on the (somewhat controversial) question of how Mitza's contributions impacted husband's famous discoveries.
'Ammonite' by Nicola Griffith
This science fiction novel is set on a planet called Jeep, where centuries earlier a virus shattered the human colony, killing all the men and altering the few surviving women. Now, anthropologist Marghe Taishan has arrived to test a new vaccine on the population and discover their biological secrets.
'Dorothy Hodgkin: A Life' by Georgina Ferry
This is one of the most-loved biographies about a female scientist out there. Dorothy Hodgkin was Britain's first (and only, so far) female scientist to win the Nobel Prize. A leader in the field of crystallography, she discovered the structures of insulin, penicillin, and vitamin B12.
'Find Where The Wind Goes: Moments From My Life' by Dr. Mae Jemison
As the first black woman to go into space, Mae Jemison is a huge inspiration to us all. In this wonderful biography, Jemison tells you stories from her life's work as a scientist, doctor, teacher, actress, and activist.
'Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA' by Brenda Maddox
In 1962, Maurice Wilkins, Francis Crick, and James Watson received the Nobel Prize for discovering the layout of DNA, but behind their discovery was the work of Rosalind Franklin, a woman whose vast contributions to science have been overlooked. This enthralling biography will tell you the fascinating story of Franklin's life and work.
'The Signature of All Things' by Elizabeth Gilbert
In this sweeping novel about a remarkable family during the Industrial Revolution, Alma Whitaker is a gifted botanist researching the mysteries of evolution. But after falling in love with an artist, she unexpectedly finds herself drawn to the spiritual world.
'The Movement of Stars' by Amy Brill
This historical fiction novel is set in 1845 Nantucket, where — despite the expectations of her Quaker community — astronomer Hannah Gardner Price is determined to discover a comet. But when she takes a student under her wing, and a relationship blossoms, Hannah finds herself on an unexpected path. This book is inspired by the work of Maria Mitchell, the first professional female astronomer in America.
'Prodigal Summer' by Barbara Kingsolver
Did you know that Barbara Kingsolver herself has a degree in biology? This book centers on reclusive wildlife biologist Deanna Wolfe, who is watching a den of wildlife coyotes when she finds her space unexpectedly invaded by a stranger.