The Changing Face of Science

The Contributions of Women to Science
and Mathematics Past and Present

Lesson Written by Martha C. Phelps-Borrowman

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Over the centuries there have been many female scientists and mathematicians who have made significant contributions to the understanding of our world. Yet, especially in science and math textbooks, the lives and work of these women have often been overlooked. This lesson is designed to give students a more accurate idea of the contributions of women to the sciences.


Materials Needed:

Procedures: If you would like to print a copy of the procedures and extensions only, click here.

  1. Construct a chart on paper to record the following information: Name, Nationality, Birth and Death Dates, Field of Science or Math, Contribution/s
  2. Learn a lot about one female scientist of the 19th century by beginning a search on the Internet with Maria Mitchell.
  3. Record the information about Maria Mitchell on the chart constructed on paper.
  4. From the information page on Maria Mitchell, go back to the lesson page to perform a search for an additional female scientist or mathematician by using a search engine such as Alta Vista. Be sure that she is from a different century. Record data on chart.
  5. Organize groups of 2-4 students to discuss the following:
    • information that was surprising to you,
    • individual explanation/s of reasons for the lack of recognition of women,
    • difficulties in locating information, or
    • related topics of interest or concern to each group.
  6. Make a list of the main points of the group discussion.
  7. Share some of the main points with the class.


  1. Continue to search for additional female scientists and mathematicians.
  2. Locate a female scientist or mathematician from five different centuries.
  3. Construct a database of the information located on the female scientists and mathematicians.
  4. Make a presentation in science class on one of the female scientists or mathematicians.
  5. Conduct an experiment in the scientific area of one of the females.
  6. Develop a flyer describing the life and work of one of the female scientists or mathematicians.
  7. Create and present a skit dealing with an aspect of the life of a selected female scientist or mathematician.

©1996-1997 by Martha C. Phelps-Borrowman. Copy and use this lesson freely with credit to Martha C. Phelps-Borrowman.

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4000 Years of Women in Science
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Women in Math Project
Go to   CRPC GirlTECH Home Page   to link to more lessons written by teachers for the Internet.    Acknowledgments and credits
for sources used on this page include,   CRPC,   Master Teachers and Participants of   GirlTECH 96,   my source for icons,
  LucidCafe   for information on Maria Mitchell, and the   American Association of University Women Educational Foundation  
who awarded me with an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellowship and funds to get the girls' science club (G.I.R.L.S.) at  
Lanier Middle School
  off to a great first year.     Be sure to check out the links to   G.I.R.L.S.   and   GirlTECH Council.
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This page was developed through GirlTECH '96, a teacher training and student technology council program sponsored by the Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC), a National Science Foundation funded Science and Technology Center.