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Release: June 29, 2001

Libraries opens Women in Science exhibition

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A new exhibition focusing on the impact of women in the field of science has opened at the University of Iowa Libraries.

"Hypatia's Hidden Heritage: Women in Science" is on view in the North Exhibition Hall of the Main Library now through September. This exhibition recognizes Hypatia of Alexandria (370-415 A.D.), the first female scientist for whom there exists significant documentation. She was noted for her brilliance in mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy. She is also notable because she was well educated at a time when the rigorous education of women was not common or condoned.

The materials on display are drawn from the libraries' general and departmental collections, the libraries' Special Collections Department, the Iowa Women's Archives, the John Martin Rare Book Room at the Hardin Library for Health Sciences, and the University Archives. Some additional artifacts have been lent by the UI Hospitals and Clinics Medical Museum, the UI Department of Physics and the UI Museum of Natural History. Some of the items include an early nurse's cape and cap from the Medical Museum that was used by nurses at the UI Hospitals, insect specimens, and a teaching skull that was used in the UI Dental Assistants program.

Among the women highlighted in the exhibit are Maria Goeppert Mayer (1906-1972), who was only the second woman and the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics, and Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926), who was the first African American professional nurse. Also featured is Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), a prominent entomologist whose greatest contributions to the field include a careful study of insects in relationship to the plants they consumed, and the states of metamorphosis of butterflies and moths.

There are also several Iowa women included in the exhibit. Martha "Stacey" Stoessel Wahl, who graduated from the UI in 1943, went on to develop unique, hands-on strategies to teach math to children. Also included is Sylvia M. Stoesser (1901-1991), who received her Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the UI in 1928. She was hired directly by H.H. Dow of the Dow Chemical Company as the company's first woman researcher, and at the time, she was the only person working on her team with a doctorate degree.

The exhibition is free and open to the public. For more information, call (319) 335-5867.