Alembic Blog

An Early Female Aviator's 1935 Christmas Card

It's Christmas card time, but we're guessing that very few of you have made cards as cool as this one sent by the Bowmans, a family of early aviators, in 1935.

View full article →

A Lovely 1930s Herbarium of British Plants

Our loveliest recent acquisition is this herbarium created during the 1930s by Elsie T. Skinner, who was attending St. Katharine's College in Tottenham. We specialise in herbaria of various types, especially those made by women, and this one is particularly nice. It contains 151 carefully mounted specimens, representing a remarkable 121 different species from around the UK.

View full article →
March 06, 2019

News › women in science ›


A Hunger of the Mind: Four Centuries of Women and Science

Today I'm proud to release my first major catalogue, A Hunger of the Mind: Four Centuries of Women and Science, published jointly with Deborah Coltham Rare Books. It contains books by famous scientists such as Marie Curie and Jane Goodall, but also focuses on lesser-known women. Many of these researchers weren’t household names but contributed enormously to their fields, and others were popular science writers, educators, translators, entrepreneurs, explorers, and activists. The catalogue shows that, despite the obstacles placed in their way, women have always engaged with science. As astronomer Maria Mitchell put it, "We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing". 

See the full catalogue as a .pdf here, or email info@alembicrarebooks for a paper copy that will be available in a few weeks.

View full article →

A Rare Biographical Sketch of Rosalind Franklin by Her Mother

Dying at age 38 is a tragedy for anyone, but it is a double tragedy when that person is potentially a Nobel Prize winner with many more years of productive science ahead of them. When biochemist Rosalind Franklin died of ovarian cancer in 1958, only a few years after her work contributed to the discovery of the structure of DNA, her mother was distraught not only for the loss of a child but for the international recognition that her daughter had not achieved in life. The result of her grief was this touching autobiographical sketch, Rosalind, published privately a few years later, ostensibly for the much-loved nieces and nephews who would grow up with only dim memories of their aunt.

View full article →

To Miss Whitbread from Her Friend & Admirer: A Regency-Era Trigonometry Presentation

Today we continue our series of Ada Lovelace Day posts with this superb Regency-Era book on trigonometry that was finely bound and inscribed from the author to a young woman named Elizabeth Whitbread in 1810.

View full article →

Victorian Women & STEM Education: A Prize Book Awarded by the Edinburgh Ladies' Educational Association

Tomorrow is Ada Lovelace Day, when we celebrate women in the sciences, so over the next few days I'll be highlighting recent acquisitions that show the long history of women's engagement with STEM subjects. The first is a copy of John Herschel's Outlines of Astronomy that's directly connected to the Victorian movement for women's higher education.

View full article →

Bringing Some Culture to the Physicists: Nina Byers & Richard Feynman

This first edition of Richard Feynman's The Theory of Fundamental Processes is from the library of the pioneering female physicist Nina Byers (1930-2014), who made important contributions to particle physics and superconductivity and had a humorous personal connection with Feynman, earning her a mention in Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman.

View full article →

How Men (and Women) Fly: Gertrude Bacon & Early Aviation

'Have you ever seen a man fly?' A few years ago this question was too ridiculous to be worth answering seriously. A very few years hence it will be equally pointless. As well ask, 'Have you ever seen a man drive a motor-car, or ride a bicycle, or push a wheelbarrow?'

 So wrote the inimitable Gertrude Bacon, the first Englishwoman to fly in a plane, in the opening lines of How Men Fly, a significant early work on aviation.

View full article →

A Quaker Education Part 2: Priscilla Wakefield's Introduction to Botany

Last week I wrote about a fascinating mathematics textbook "for the use of young ladies" by a Quaker education reformer, and how members of that religious community played an outsized role in the push for women's education and civil rights. Today I catalogued another book written, with young women in mind, by a Quaker activist: An Introduction to Botany in a Series of Familiar Letters, by Priscilla Wakefield.

View full article →

A Quaker Education: William Gawthrop's Arithmetic for Young Ladies

Some of my favourite books to have in the shop are the ones that combine my interests in science and women's history, and today I had the pleasure of cataloguing a rare and delightful book on mathematics for "the use of young ladies". The Scholar's Introduction to Arithmetic; Designed for the Use of Young Ladies and the Junior Classes in Boys' Schools was published by William Gawthrop in Liverpool, probably in the 1820s or early 1830s (an owner's signature in this copy is dated 1832). It speaks to us not only about mathematics teaching in early-19th century Britain, but also about the history of women's education and the role that the Quaker religious community played in its advancement.

View full article →