Broader Impacts of Women in Crystallography

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Women made many early and outstanding contributions to X-ray crystallography at a time when they were excluded from most other branches of physical science. The etiology of this bright spot in the social evolution of science is sought in early childhood education, especially the Froebel kindergarten that was rooted in symmetry and lattice building exercises. This connection is explored through the formative educational experiences of eight crystallographers that are compared with those of eight astronomers. Associations with Froebels pedagogy are ubiquitous in the biographies of the crystallographers and wholly absent in the biographies of astronomers. Creating a more democratic scientific enterprise requires understanding the mechanisms for increasing the participation of members of unrepresented genders and ethnicities. Some of these mechanisms may be found in history. One of the crystallographers profiled, Isabel Ellie Knaggs (1893-1981), made a major contribution to the X-ray analysis of organic compounds by establishing that carbon atoms in isolated molecules adopt tetrahedral coordination geometries. This determination was a capstone on the stereochemistry of the preceding 50 years. Another scientist, working independently, exclusively claimed this discovery. Thus, while studying the general disenfranchisement of women in science, a particular injustice not heretofore recognized came into focus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4715-47130
Number of pages42416
JournalCrystal Growth and Design
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 7 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics


Dive into the research topics of 'Broader Impacts of Women in Crystallography'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this