Monday, July 02, 2007

Darwin and Women Studying Science at Cambridge

Afarensis points out that Charles Darwin contributed five guineas toward building "a physical and biological laboratory for women in Cambridge." According to notes in the comments, this would be about $711 in today's money.

The Balfour Biological Laboratory for Women opened at Cambridge University in 1884. According to a 1997 article by Marsha Richmond:

For thirty years, until its closure in 1914, the Balfour Laboratory served as the central conduit for biological instruction for the women of Cambridge, introducing them to the new program of experimental biology developed by the physiologist Michael Foster and the embryologist Francis Maitland Balfour. [. . .] It provided university positions for able scientists who otherwise would not have been placed, offered advanced students the opportunity to engage in independent research, and, most important, formed the locus for the scientific subculture created by women at Cambridge to compensate for their exclusion from the social community of science.
Graduates of the lab include botanist Agnes Arbor, who was denied the use of the facilities in the Cambridge Botany School when the Balfour lab closed. Arber set up a laboratory in a back room in her home using borrowed equipment. Read more about Arbor's scientific contributions.

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