Monday, June 16, 2008

Sexist Chemistry Sets

The inaugural episode of the PBS series Wired Science (which first aired last October) looked at chemistry sets past and present. In a visit to the Chemical Heritage Foundation, chemistry sets from the 1960s were targeted by gender: there were regular chemistry sets for boys, with lots of dangerous and exciting chemicals, and lab technician sets for girls. Apparently they didn't want to get girls' expectations up that they might be chemists themselves.

Today's chemistry sets aren't nearly as nifty (or dangerous) as they were back in the 1960s. However, there are resources for the enterprising home chemist:

There's discussion of the episode at SciAm Observations.

Image: Chemical & Engineering News article about chemistry memorabilia. It talks about the chemistry kits and chemical industry advertising from the 1950s and 1960s that featured nude women. I'm sure that made the women who were chemists feel welcome in their profession.
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