4 November 2010

Women Scientists (revised)

Listening to Lord Bragg's In our time on the Steam Wireless this morning (the subject: women scientists during the Enlightenment) I happened to notice, tucked away almost as an aside, the information that in the eighteenth century women were not only allowed to study the Natural Sciences in Italian universities (particularly at Bologna), but could and did take degrees and become university teachers. And that this happened with Church - and even papal - sponsorship and encouragement; long before English universities had any public teaching of Sciences or allowed women anywhere near the doors of lecture rooms. Not surprisingly, that erudite pontiff whom I have often referred to in this blog, Papa Lambertini aka Bendict XIV, was the pope involved (see a characteristically valuable comment by Joshua on the thread). His true enlightenment compares favourably with the spurious Enlightenment of some person called Rousseau - quoted by Bragg - who believed that the education of women should only be directed to the end of training them to massage the male ego.

A detail of history which does not very often get publicity. It shoots down the barmy views of Bishop Williamson, who seems to side with Rousseau against Benedict XIV, and the contrafactual bigotries of Dawkins the Daft and his groupies.

1 comment:

Joshua said...

Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799) was one of these lady scientists: a famous mathematician, known for her intellect no less than for her piety, wealth, and beauty. Ironically, she herself wanted to enter a convent, but her father forbade her. Pope Benedict XIV appointed her professor of mathematics and philosophy at the University of Bologna. However, with the death of her father she was at last able to devote herself to theology, Patristics, and the service of the ill, poor, and destitute, running a hospice, before entering an austere order, the so-called Blue Nuns, at Milan. Thus she turned from every advantage of the world, toward the true things of lasting value.