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Pythagoras' Trousers: God, Physics, and the Gender Wars (1994)

de Margaret Wertheim

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In Pythagoras' Trousers, science writer Margaret Wertheim offers an astute social and cultural history of physics, from ancient Greece to our own time. Wertheim demonstrates that from its inception, physics has been an overwhelmingly male-dominated activity and continues to be so today. But what, she asks, would the world look like - what could the world look like - if men and women worked side by side in shaping the physics of the future? Wertheim puts forward the startling hypothesis that gender inequity in physics is a result of the religious origins of the enterprise. Physics, she reveals, is a science based on a conception of God as a divine mathematical creator. For most of its history, it has been intimately entwined with the institutions of Christianity, and in line with those institutions has historically been closed to women. Furthermore, physicists' world picture has evolved from a deeply "masculine" perspective.Wertheim shows that the battle women faced to break into science parallels the battle they faced to break into the clergy; physics has become the Catholic church of science. Even now, women have made tremendous strides in the social and biological sciences, yet they remain chronically underrepresented in physics. Why is this so? Wertheim argues that a crucial factor behind this inequity is the continuing religious undercurrent in contemporary physics. At a time when we are witnessing a resurgence of interest in physics and the divine - Stephen Hawking suggests that his science is a quest for "the mind of God" - there is a need to take a closer look at the ongoing relationship between physics and faith, and to examine the implications of that relationship for both sexes.… (més)
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Margaret Wertheim hat mit "Die Hosen des Pythagoras - Gott, Physik und die Frauen" ein wissenschaftsgeschichtliches und feministisches Buch geschrieben, in dem es, neben den im Klappentext erwähnten "Einstein, Newton und anderen Frauenfeinden", immer wieder um die Frauen geht, die sich trotz aller institutionellen und gesellschaftlichen Stolpersteine mit den Naturwissenschaften (insbesondere der Physik) und der Mathematik beschäftigen wollten und das dann trotz aller Widerstände immer wieder auch taten.

Eine Kernaussage findet sich dann auch schon im Klappentext "Physik ist die katholische Kirche der Wissenschaft". Diese Aussage wird im Buch untermauert, durch die geschichtliche Entwicklung von Pythagoras bis heute und durch das Bild, das die Stellenverteilung in der universitären Physik heute bietet.

In der Summe legt Margaret Wertheim hier eine fundierte Geschichte der Erkenntnisentwicklung in der modernen Physik vor, in der der Mathematische Mann als Verhinderer der Mathematischen Frau durchaus kritisch betrachtet wird - insbesondere, da wirkliche Innovation in der Regel nur dann geleistet werden kann, wenn man sich nicht scheut, aus den bestehenden Denkmustern auszubrechen (egal, ob als Mann oder als Frau).

Klare Empfehlung für alle, die sich für Naturwissenschaften als auch für Geschichtsschreibung interessieren, die die Rolle der Frau in den Fokus nimmt - und nicht davon abgeschreckt werden, wenn manche Ideen sehr breit dargestellt werden. ( )
  ahzim | Dec 18, 2016 |
Margaret Wertheim wrote a piece for "Dick for a Day: What Would You Do If You Had One?" by Fiona Giles. In that she also mourns the fact that physics is one of the last bastions of male power.
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
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In Pythagoras' Trousers, science writer Margaret Wertheim offers an astute social and cultural history of physics, from ancient Greece to our own time. Wertheim demonstrates that from its inception, physics has been an overwhelmingly male-dominated activity and continues to be so today. But what, she asks, would the world look like - what could the world look like - if men and women worked side by side in shaping the physics of the future? Wertheim puts forward the startling hypothesis that gender inequity in physics is a result of the religious origins of the enterprise. Physics, she reveals, is a science based on a conception of God as a divine mathematical creator. For most of its history, it has been intimately entwined with the institutions of Christianity, and in line with those institutions has historically been closed to women. Furthermore, physicists' world picture has evolved from a deeply "masculine" perspective.Wertheim shows that the battle women faced to break into science parallels the battle they faced to break into the clergy; physics has become the Catholic church of science. Even now, women have made tremendous strides in the social and biological sciences, yet they remain chronically underrepresented in physics. Why is this so? Wertheim argues that a crucial factor behind this inequity is the continuing religious undercurrent in contemporary physics. At a time when we are witnessing a resurgence of interest in physics and the divine - Stephen Hawking suggests that his science is a quest for "the mind of God" - there is a need to take a closer look at the ongoing relationship between physics and faith, and to examine the implications of that relationship for both sexes.

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