Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Brief List of Women Scientists through Time (The Middle Ages a.k.a. ~500-1500 CE)

Again, I start this blog with a caveat, throughout history there has been a tendency to under-report on women participating in the sciences... what follows is definitely not a comprehensive list. Please add your finds to the following list:

  • Empress Theodora (500–545), Byzantine philosopher and mathematician
  • Anna Komnene (1083-1153), Byzantine princess who was a scholar trained in all of the sciences, physician/hospital administrator, and historian. She was the daughter of the Byzantine emperor Alexios I and his wife Irene Doukaina, writing the Alexiad which is an account of her father’s reign.
  • Hildegard of Bingen (1099–1179), German abbess who is considered the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.
  •  Trota of Salerno (12th century), Italian physician and writer, she was one of the Ladies of Salerno who practiced medicine. It is somewhat controversial, but there is strong evidence that she wrote the Trotula Treatises.
  • Herrad of Landsberg (c.1130–1195), German/French nun, and subsequently abbess, she was a natural philosopher who authored the pictorial encyclopedia "Hortus deliciarum" or "The Garden of Delights".
  • Heloise (12th century), French scholar, mathematician, and physician
  • Dame Péronelle (1292-1319), French herbalist and physician
  • Magistra Hersend (13 century CE) French Royal Physician and Surgeon, she accompanied King Louis IX of France on the Seventh Crusade, 1249.
  • Alessandra Giliani (1307-1326), Italian, she was the first known female anatomist and surgical assistant to the father of modern anatomy, Mondino de'Liuzzi, at the University of Bologna. She died at 19 and is known primarily from a memorial plaque from Otto Angenius (a fellow student of Mondino, and likely her fiance) which describes her work. Alessandra was apparently a brilliant prosector (preparer of corpses for anatomical study) and known for developing a method to replace the blood drained from a corpse with a colored hardening dye.
  • Dorotea Bucca (14th century CE), Italian physician and professor of medicine, she held a chair of medicine and philosophy at the University of Bologna for 40+ years.
  • Abella (14th century), Italian physician and writer and lecturer at Salerno School of Medicine
  • Jacobina Félicie (14th century CE), Italian physician licensed and practiced in France (only 1 of 8 at the time in Paris, 1322). She was accused and found guilty of unlawful practice in Paris. Despite positive testimony she was banned from practicing medicine and threatened with excommunication. The court determined that, due to gender, a man could understand the subject of medicine better than a woman. This decision is considered the critical point, beginning the ban on women studying and being licensed in medicine in France until the 1800s, about 500 years.
  • Constance Calenda (15th century), Italian surgeon specializing in diseases of the eye.
During this time, while it wasn't common, Italian schools never barred women and allowed them to study and teach alongside men.

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