Thursday, August 14, 2008

If A Woman is Wahay Smahhht, is She a Genius?

Genius: exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc.: the genius of Mozart.

There are times when I wished I linked to rather stupid blogs. Among my blogroll are some very intelligent people who make me feel a little doltish (I think I just made a new word!) Now folks, take this as tongue in cheek with a little 'Where there's smoke, there's fire . . ."

Ernest who’s philosophical meanderings make me realise I am no intellect and miles from a true genius, has set a cat among the pigeons with his last couple of posts by postulating that women are few and as far behind as a Somali swimmer in the 400metre when it comes to a splash in the genius pool. All in good fun mind. (Now Monseiur de Cugnac don't get your boxers in a bunch!).

It is perhaps true that women are not known for that blinding genius of Newton and Galileo or for their incredible epiphanies and deep philosophical theories. We of the fairer sex don't quite have the demonstrable spark of superlative deduction as did Einstein. In fact, women 'geniuses' are difficult to find, although 'clever' women are well recorded. Well he might be right but I wasn’t going to let that one go . . oh no! Mileva Maric may not contributed to the theory of relativity but I bet she had a hand in hubby Einstein's genius even if it was pushing his pale and interesting ass out of the house for some fresh air and pontification on occasion. And as a believer in 'behind every great man, there is a great woman', I think many a genius was pushed to invention by a whining partner!

It did get me thinking though. There are some women who have made remarkable achievements but could they be regarded as geniuses? Although it pains me, probably not, female education has been sadly lacking in the past. If a genius is defined as having a particular 'spark' for invention rather than female pragmatism then the geniuses of old would not have had he opportunity. Clever, calculating, persuasive, inventive absolutely . . but what woman had an apple drop on her noggin and come up with laws of Gravity? She was in the kitchen gutting a suckling pig and sticking the apple in it's mouth. What woman drew flying machines and tested the plight of Icharus? Too busy darning Leonardo's socks I'll bet. And as far as I know, no woman in the world can see the value in splitting an atom when splitting wood was a priority for family warmth.

Dare I postulate that there may have been women geniuses prior to the 18th Century, but largely due to the lowly status of women other than in the artistic world, they may have found themselves subversed by men or burned at the stake for controversial philosophies. Let's face it, happens all the time in the office . . glass ceiling and all that. Even I have had the odd clever idea but know that in order to have it accepted, I need to make the men of the piece think that it was their idea all along.

I did to a little plonking on the net and found this absolutely wonderful quote: (remember girls, tongues firmly in cheek)

"The man of genius possesses, like everything else, the complete female in himself; but woman herself is only a part of the Universe, and the part can never be the whole; femaleness can never include genius. This lack of genius on the part of woman is inevitable because woman is not a monad, and cannot reflect the Universe"

Then again, I suspect we should expect no less from Otto Weininger! Who incidentally shot himself at 25 years of age . . now that was an act of genius wouldn't you agree?

Anyway, not to rub anyone’s nose in it, but here are a few mothers of invention, if not literary or artistic geniuses . . .but useful and talented nonetheless . . I think we poor women were victims of circumstance and I'm sure there's the odd genius out there . . if so . .will she please stand up and share her epiphany! I think looking at this list, we're far more pragmatic.

Antifungal antibiotic (Nystatin) Rachel Fuller Brown and Elizabeth Lee Hazen 1957
Barbi Doll Ruth Handler 1959
Brassiere Mary Phelps Jacob 1913
Battery container Nancy Perkins 1986
Beehive Thiphena Hornbrook 1861
Cabinet Bed Sarah Goode 1885
Canister vacuum Nancy Perkins 1987
Car heater Margaret Wilcox 1893
Circular saw Tabitha Babbit 1812
COBOL (Common Business-Oriented Language) Grace Hopper 1959
Computer program Augusta Ada Byron 1842
Cooking stove Elizabeth Hawk 1867 CPR
Mannequin Dianne Croteau, et al 1989
Dam and reservoir construction Harriet Strong 1887
Direct and return mailing envelope Beulah Henry 1962
Dishwasher Josephine Cochran 1872
Disposable cell phone Randi Altschul 1999
Drinking fountain device Laurene O'Donnell 1985
Electric hot water heater Ida Forbes 1917
Elevated railway Mary Walton 1881
Engine muffler
El Dorado Jones 1917
Feedback control for data processing
Erna Hoover 1971
Fire escape
Anna Connelly 1887
Fireplace damper actuator
Virgie Ammons 1975
Geobond Patricia Billings 1997
Ellen Fitz 1875
"Gong and signal chair" Miriam Benjamin 1888
Grain storage bin
Lizzie Dickelman 1920
Hair products for African Americans
Madame C.J. Walker 1908
Improved animal handling systems in meat plants
Dr. Temple Grandin 1989
Improved locomotive wheels Mary Jane Montgomery 1864
Improvement in dredging machines
Emily Tassey 1876
Improvement in stone pavements Emily Gross 1877
Stephanie Kwolek 1966
Life raft Maria Beaseley 1882
Liquid Paper correction fluid
Bette Nesmith Graham 1956
Locomotive chimney Mary Walton 1879
Medical syringe
Letitia Geer 1899
Mop-wringer pail
Eliza Wood 1889
Newborn Scoring System (Apgar Score)
Dr. Virginia Apgar 1949
Non-reflective glass
Katherine Blodgett 1938
Oil burner
Amanda Jones 1880
Optical analysis systems Dr. Ellen Ochoa 1987
Permanent wave for the hair
Marjorie Joyner 1928
Portable screen summer house
Nettie Rood 1882
Process for isolating human stem cells
Ann Tsukamoto, et al 1991
Refrigerator Florence Parpart 1914
Rolling pin
Catherine Deiner 1891
Rotary engine
Margaret Knight 1902
Safety device for elevators Harriet Tracy 1892
Signal generator Dr. Betsy Ancker-Johnson 1966
Spread spectrum
Hedy Lamarr 1941
Street cleaning machine
Florence Parpart 1900
Submarine lamp and telescope
Sara Mather 1845
Laura Cooney 1896
Washing machine
Margaret Colvin 1871
Windshield wiper Mary Anderson 1903
Zigzag sewing machine
Helen Blanchard 1873

Sure we didn't split the atom or discover gravity or the principals of flight. We're not much into navel gazing and sitting under trees pondering the state of the cosmos, we were far too busy being practical . . .now that's genius!


Ces said...

Women do great things everyday. They just don't blab about them. I grew up and work with both male and female geniuses who are accomplished and known. The only difference between male and female geniuses is that the female still manages to cook, clean and do the laundry. That is why it was a female who invented all those modern gadgets.

laughingwolf said...

actually, the highest recorded iq is that of a woman: everyone thinks the one with the highest is steven hawking, with an iq of slightly more than 200, but it's really marilyn vos savant, with an iq of 228....

Thriftcriminal said...

Certain types of genius are strongly associated with autism, in that the same type of brain developmentcan produce either. As I understand it autism occurs at a greater rate in males (open to correction on this one).

This would seem a likely explanation, more so than unsubstantiated humility in any case.

Interestingly the incidence of autism in children in silicon valley is higher than normal, thought to possibly be due to engineers interbreeding.

English Mum said...

I invented the artery-busting triple chocolate fudge cake with chocolate fudge icing. Worth a mention? Thought not.

Annie Ha said...

One must always remember that history is written by the victors, wether those victors be classified by race, culture, nation, creed, gender...

"And they've not been any too well known
For brains and planning and organized thinking
But I'm sure the women are equal
And they may be ahead of the men"
-Wooody Guthrie

Annie Ha said...

great, I spelled whether wrong... that sure makes me look smart!

Nick said...

How predictable it is that men inventors get loads of attention while female inventors are habitually overlooked, which is why the myth of female non-creativity persists. What a stunning list of female inventors that is to set the record straight!
And according to Wikipedia the bra was actually invented by two women, an earlier version being thought up by Herminie Cadolle.

Jay said...

I think Marie Curie is worth a mention as a scientist of note!

But yeah, men tend to be more single-minded which may help them to be 'discoverers' and researchers, but women are very active in those areas too. And we can multi-task better.

Miladysa said...

Awesome post Baino!!!!

My first thought was Marie Curie then I read this:

"Marie Salomee Sklodowska Curie was a famous scientist. She was born on November 7, 1867, in Freta Street Boarding School for girls in Warsaw, Poland. She discovered polonium, radium and coined the word radioactivity. In 1903, she was the first women to win a nobel prize. She shared it with her husband pierre and another scientist in physics. In 1911 she won the nobel prize for physics for all her work on radiology. She died of Leukemia from excessive radiation on July 4, 1934."

Not too sure about that now...

So I shall quote something my father once told me, he told me it was an old Eskimo saying but he might have made it up or read it on the back of a match box. Anyway I would like to share it with you:

"Behind every great man is the woman who pushed him all the way."

I think you summed it up better though :-D

Baino said...

Ces I wish I could say I do great things every day! But I'm with you on the fact that we get on with the mundane stuff as well. I'm pretty sure that it has much to do with our historical retardation, the balance may be corrected over the next few years as women get to exercise their brains.

Thanks Wuffa, I thought it was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Thrifty I believe you're right on both counts. Autism is three times more likely in mailes but I'm not sure about the number of geniuses who had the condition.

Engineers interbreeding? Are you serious! Never thought of making out with an engineer as a health hazard before!

English mum . . .I don't necessarily rate a high IQ, as my father would say "all brains and no intelligence!" And yes your artery clogging dessert puts you right up there with the female geniuses of the 21st Century . . .

Annie, good point . . .sort of validates my theory that for the past few hundred years, the opportunity hasn't been there for women to get on top (metaphorically speaking) Don't worry about the spelling, I believe Einstein had a problem with spelling!

Nick, we're used to it As for the Bra . .curse that woman! Imagine walking around wearing a batsman's box all day!

Jay, too right! And we can do it with a baby on our hip as well! (although I tell you, the younglings aren't bad at multi tasking when it suits them aka in front of a PC!)

Poor old Marie . . .that's taking your work a little too seriously. Great saying and much truth behind it I think. I prefer 'encouraged' to 'pushed' hehehe.

Thriftcriminal said...

@Baino: Re: batsman's box; codpiece already done, didn't last.

steph said...

The Leaving Cert results (end of 2nd level education) came out yesterday.

Overall in my daughter's year, the girls way outshone the lads. Yay!

Florence Nightingale may not have been a genius but she sure made a difference!

GayƩ Terzioglu said...

Girls from primary all the way through to highschool outshine the boys in science, maths, you name it girls score high in it. So what happens at some point in time from the first levels of schooling through to university that the male dominance in science takes over female brilliance? I think, too, that it is the traditional role imposed on women -partly nature is to blame- to lose focus on that genius that has been waiting to come out, flourish and BAM... Had the man been cursed with a child bearing body, I bet gravity would have been discovered by a female dreamer! You have to be a dreamer and a genius together to invent, discover. With the weight of being a woman and thus having to be the practical one, looking after a whole bunch of things in the family, and feeling the pressure of having a family (clock and all), and voila...
Kudos to all the wonderful women who dreamt, invented. Who stood up and said, I will not yield to the conventional pressures of the society, I will follow my dreams! They are / have been brave.
Great post, Ma'am.

Anonymous said...

To prove women are evil:

Women = time x money (given)
Women = Evil


Megan said...

That is a great list. Who knew?

Baino said...

Ah Thrifty . . nothing like a man in pantaloons and a cod piece! I wish the bra had gone the same way! Can't stand the over shoulder boulder holder!

Interesting Steph. . .over here the girls do better overall but the boys tend to blitz maths and science. I think young Flo was more a saint than a genius . . .although Fleming and Florey might have slipped in there . .

Gaye . . Tis true, I think our focus changes somewhat. Mind you some women just don't want to develop their genius, they're happy in domestic bliss and raising a family . . kudos to them also for making a conscious decision about their needs and wants.

Notso: You forgot a square root in there somewhere!

Thanks Megan I think these are just American . . there should be more somewhere.

Bimbimbie said...

Keep rubbing those noses Baino *!* I agree with Ces, men bless 'em, like to beat their chest and declare to anyone within earshot of how smart they think they might be.

Babysis said...

The Syringe...amazing invention....where would we be today without that...working in "Medicine" the amount of syringes we go through in our little surgery is AMAZING - let alone how many times a day would I split an atom???

However, I was sick as a dog yesterday and The Plumber had to do my duties - he came home from work and announced after picking up milk and bread, cooking tea (sausage sangas), helping kids with homework (then I said they need a shower and jarmies too) he hit the roof and stated that he hadnt sat down all day and how was he supposed to do all this by 7.30pm???? I laughed and stated welcome to my life - thats genius! And mums do it everyday!

Baino said...

Haha Bimbimbie, notice how the blokes take it just a 'leeetle' seriously! I love 'em really but not for their minds!

Awww DooDoo how are you snot box! Well I'm not sure it's genius more a testament to tenacity and multi-tasking! The world would be very different if men could have babies!