Gender, Politics, and Radioactivity Research in Interwar Vienna

Isis 95 (3):359-393 (2004)
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Abstract

This essay explores the significance of political and ideological context as well as experimental culture for the participation of women in radioactivity research. It argues that the politics of Red Vienna and the culture of radioactivity research specific to the Viennese setting encouraged exceptional gender politics within the Institute for Radium Research in the interwar years. The essay further attempts to provide an alternative approach to narratives that concentrate on personal dispositions and stereotypical images of women in science to explain the disproportionately large number of women in radioactivity research. Instead, the emphasis here is on the institutional context in which women involved themselves in radioactivity in interwar Vienna. This approach places greater importance on contingencies of time and place and highlights the significance of the cultural and political context in a historical study while at the same time shedding light on the interrelation between scientific practices and gender.

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