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On the Outskirts of Physics: Eva von Bahr's Scientific Networks 1909-1914
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Gender Research.
2007 (English)Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The Swedish physicist Eva von Bahr (1874-1962) was scientifically successful. After her dissertation (1909) she became the first woman to be hired as an assistant at the Physics Department at Uppsala University. In 1913 she went to Berlin and collaborated with German physicists. She also became close friends with Lise Meitner. In 1914, she, in her own words, “said goodbye” to science and took up work as a teacher in a rural folk school in Sweden. Von Bahr suffered under the Swedish constitution, which prohibited women from holding academic positions (this writing was abolished in 1925). She applied for professorship twice, but her applications were not taken under consideration.

The first argument in this paper is that scientific networks were important in giving von Bahr opportunities to do work as a physicist despite the legal obstacles. I will discuss the importance of the Uppsala Physics department and professor Knut Ångström who hired her as an assistant. I will also discuss the fruitful network in Berlin that von Bahr benefited from.

The second main argument in this paper is that von Bahrs position in the scientific networks was gendered and paradoxical: it made her an insider and outsider at the same time. She was part of important scientific communities and worked in highly esteemed environments. But in her own memories and letters she claims to never have wanted a scientific career, and she quit her work even though she could have continued doing it. Her collaborations with scientific elites coexisted with a position and self perception as an outsider, mainly because she was a woman. The overall argument in this paper is that network theories will be richer if we add a gender perspective and an analysis of the power structures. This can be achieved by starting at the outskirts of scientific communities where people like Eva von Bahr lived their scientific lives.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
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History Gender Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-12131OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-12131DiVA: diva2:39900
International conference on networking in science and technology: the gender perspective, July 6-9, 2007, Ermoupolis, Syros, Greece
Available from: 2007-11-29 Created: 2007-11-29 Last updated: 2011-01-19Bibliographically approved

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Wennerholm, Staffan
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