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Women: Life Sciences v. the Lifeless Sciences
Of course, a lot of top female science talent prefers to go into the Life Sciences rather than into physics.
Consider Nobel Prizes. Theses are lagging indicators, extremely so in the case of this week's Physics Nobel for theoretical work on the Higgs boson 49 years ago. Still, they are of interest.
Let's use 1969 as the year when modern feminist consciousness crystallized. So, here are the before 1969 and after 1969 number of female laureates for each hard science:
Before 1969: 2
After 1969: 0
Before 1969: 3
After 1969: 1
Physiology or Medicine:
Before 1969: 1
After 1969: 9
So, in the feminist era, great women scientists have been increasing concentrating upon the higher, living end of Edward O. Wilson's hierarchy of consilience.
Personally, having probably had my life saved in 1998 by a new life science invention, the monoclonal antibody for fighting lymphatic cancer, the fact that so much female talents goes into the Life Sciences seems pretty okay with me.
In contrast, the appeal to smart women of working with lifeless things is more limited. Patti Hausman, who has a doctorate in a life science, said:
Most of the physical sciences bore me silly. Efforts to attribute my apathy to "masculinist bias" in the curriculum amuse me no end... Reinventing the curriculum will not interest me in learning how my dishwasher works. It is a thing and things bore me. People are another story. I find them fascinating.
But the distinction isn't just between the Life and Lifeless Sciences, but between Life and Death Sciences.
The colossal prestige of physics was permanently cemented on July 16, 1945 at Trinity, NM. As the shockwave from the first ever atomic bomb passed beyond the Los Alamos physicists' fortified observation post, J. Robert Oppenheimer reflected, in the words of the Bhagavad-Gita:
"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
To a highly intelligent adolescent female mind, this most famous quote from the history of 20th Century physics is alien and horrifying. To a certain number highly intelligent adolescent male minds, however, "destroyer of worlds" is the most awesome thing anybody ever said outside of a comic book.