Examine the science behind an unequal partnership Thursday

Pnina G. Abir-Am

“Gender, race, and credit for collaborative couples: The Lederbergs and the 1958 Nobel Prize in Physiology”
A talk by Pnina G. Abir-Am
Thursday, Dec. 10
12:30 p.m.
Women’s Studies Research Center, Liberman-Miller Lecture Hall

On Dec. 10, Women’s Studies Research Center Scholar Pnina G. Abir-Am will reflect on why the female spouse in a collaborative couple of scientists was excluded from many of the awards received by her co-author and husband, including the 1958 Nobel Prize.
Esther M. Zimmer Lederberg and Joshua Lederberg collaborated on many discoveries in bacterial genetics in a decade of marriage preceding the Nobel. In her talk, Abir-Am will look at the myriad factors in this case, including the ideology of domesticity after WWII, the racism and anti-Semitism of the 1950s, and the research strategies and mistakes that were made by both partners, as well as by the Nobel committee.
“As a historian of science, I am interested in both excavating the work and discoveries of unknown women scientists, and clarifying the historical and social reasons for women’s persisting under-representation in science,” Abir-Am says. “The Lederbergs are a very rich case study because the disparity in recognition is among the largest possible; she received almost no prize while he was given an excess share of the Nobel Prize, and the period during which they made those discoveries– the early 1950s- enables us to interrogate the impact of racism and sexism on science in very clear ways.”
Pnina G. Abir-Am has published widely in the history of science, especially on molecular biology, women and gender, and the politics of collective memory. She received the first History of Science Award for outstanding research essay in the history of women in science. She has taught at colleges and universities around the world, including the University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Contact Rosa Di Virgilio Taomina at 781-736-8111 or taormina@brandeis.edu for more information on this event.

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