Metrodora: Ancient Greek Physician and Rebel

Metrodora was an ancient Greek physician, possibly of Egyptian origin, that practiced medicine and wrote the oldest known medical text by a woman named “On the Diseases and Cures of Women”. She lived sometime between 200-400 CE and her focus lied in female medicine, not so surprising perhaps, since in ancient Greece women and slaves were not allowed to practice medicine as it was considered a science gifted by the gods. Midwifes however, were common and women did assist with childbirth and some aspects of gynecology. Metrodora was unique in that she covered all areas of medicine related to women in her texts and practices, and she did this in a time when this wasn’t really allowed.

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Émilie du Châtelet; one of the first female scientists

Emilie Du Chatelet

A French mathematician, physicist and writer often credited to be one of the first female scientists, Èmilie was born 17 December 1706 in Paris to a father of lesser nobility. She grew up around learned men and her father, who had the position of the Principal Secretary and Introducer of Ambassadors to King Louis XIV, held a weekly salon where many well-respected writers and scientists were invited. During her life Émilie was a famous and respected figure in France. Her works were published in several countries and translated to German and Italian; her ideas discussed in the most important journals of the era, such as the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D’Alembert. She was active from the 1730s until her early death in 1749.

Unfortunately, she is most known for being Voltaire’s mistress. But she was a great scientist and thinker in her own right; which is one of the many reasons why I wanted to write something about her. I hope I made her justice.

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Ninni Kronberg conquers the powdered milk world

Yes, I know, another Swedish inventor, but hey, I’m Swedish and I want to toot our own horn sometimes. We are pretty bad at that but I generally have no trouble doing so, so why not. I know it’s not very jantelag1 of me but I don’t really care.

This week I want to introduce you to a woman whose patent laid the foundation for the company Semper AB. Maria Johanna (Ninni) Kronberg (1874- 1949) was a Swedish inventor and self-taught physiologist in nutrition born in Gävle. Her education was mostly handled by guvernants and she never got a studentexamen (a university entrance examination that doesn’t exist today). At age 22 she married a wholesale merchant and 1919 the pair discovered a new way to make yeast that they patented. Ninni’s husband was also a partner in a local malt house and she was active in the business together with her husband. The business, and the marriage, failed and they separated 1922 (the divorce was finalized 1925). After the divorce Ninni moved to a friend whose husband was consul Wilhem Westrup on Rydsgårds gods (Rydsgård manor) in Skåne, and it was there that her career really took off.

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Elisabeth Christina von Linné’s spark

Tropaeolum majus

For some time, I have had this idea of giving more spotlight to the women science might have forgotten, to show young girls out there that science has always been a place where women have been. Maybe not as frequently as men, it wasn’t generally accepted after all, but they’re there if you look. Some women made a mark on history even if society were against them. Maybe they were wives or daughters of scientists and learned men, maybe they just stood their ground, insisting to do what they loved despite the resistance.

I found it hard to decide what brilliant mind I was going to start with, but after some research I found, to my joyful surprise, that my idol Carl Linnaeus own daughter had made a mark in history. Small, maybe not that relevant at all, but I couldn’t help but instantly love her. As a biologist, carrying a name after Linnaeus himself, I felt it was my duty to introduce Elisabeth Christina von Linné to anyone that would care enough to notice her. Continue reading “Elisabeth Christina von Linné’s spark”