Book Manuscript: The Other Physicists

Young women conducting an experiment in the Physics Laboratory, Wellesley College. Emilio Segrè Visual Archives General Collection, Niels Bohr Library & Archives

The stories of women in the history of physics are few and far between. And apart from an exceptional few like Marie Curie or Lise Meitner, women are rarely written into the larger history; very often their stories are treated as exceptions to the norm. But what happens if we move the study of women from the periphery to the center of the history of physics? Although it has some commonalities, a history of women in physics has many differences from a history of physics dominated by men. Different institutions, like women’s colleges, become much more important. And different labor practices set the tone.

In my dissertation, The Other Physicists, I unearth a longstanding and active community of women in physics by examining the intersection of gender, physics, and higher education at colleges and universities in the United States. My historical analysis focuses on women’s colleges in the period 1870-1940. At these colleges women congregated to learn, teach, and work in physics. Each chapter is organized along the lines of the life cycle of the female physicist before World War II – including chapters on their undergraduate, graduate, and occupational experiences.

In the course of my research into this project, I have compiled a list of 275+ female physicists who were active in the United States prior to WWII. I hope to make this information publicly accessible in the future. For more information or to suggest an individual for the list, you can email me at joanna.behrman [at]

In-Progress and Forthcoming
  • In progress: Book manuscript tentatively entitled The Other Physicists: Building Women’s Physics Communities based on the Ph.D. dissertation The Other Physicists: Female Physicists at Women’s Colleges 1870-1940.
  • Forthcoming: Sections of the history of the Johns Hopkins University Physics Department, including Chapter 1 “Building a Department,” Chapter 2 “Gaining Momentum,” and biographies of Henry Rowland and Robert W. Wood. Christine Wenc, ed.
  • Joanna Behrman. “Sarah Frances Whiting, Pioneering Laboratory Instruction in Astronomy.” American Journal of Physics 91, no. 6 (June 2023), 417-424. Featured cover article. [peer-reviewed]
  • Joanna Behrman. “Physics … is for Girls? Physics Today 75, no. 8, (August 2022), 30-36. Featured cover article. [peer-reviewed]
  • Joanna Behrman. “The Personal is Professional: Margaret Maltby’s Life in Physics.” In Biographies in the History of Physics: Actors, Objects, and Organizations, 37-57. Christian Forstner, Dieter Hoffmann, and Mark Walker eds. Heidelberg: Springer, 2020. <>.
  • J. F. Behrman. “Manuals, Handbooks, and Recipes,” in Between Making and Knowing: Tools in Materials Research, 73-82. Cyrus Mody and Joseph Martin, eds. Encyclopedia of the Development and History of Materials Science. World Scientific Publishing Company, 2020. <>.
  • E.C. Behrman, R.E.F. Bonde, J.E. Steck, and J.F. Behrman, “On the Correction of Anomalous Phase Oscillation in Entanglement Witnesses Using Quantum Neural Networks,” IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems. Vol. 25, No 9, September 2014. <>. [peer-reviewed]

Book Reviews

  • Book Review of Dresvina, Juliana, ed., Thanks for Typing: Remembering Forgotten Women in History. H-Sci-Med-Tech, H-Net Reviews. 20 April 2023.
  • “A Survey of Women in Astronomy.” Book Review of Virginia Trimble and David A. Weintraub, eds. “The Sky is for Everyone: Women Astronomers in their own Words.” (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2022.) Physics Today 76, no. 1 (January 2023): 52-53.
  • “Portrait of a Groundbreaking Astronomer,” Book Review of Jacqueline Mitton and Simon Mitton. “Vera Rubin: A Life.” (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2021. 320 pp.) Science 371, no. 6531 (19 Feb 2021): 788. DOI: 10.1126/science.abg1818
  • Book Review of Donovan Moore. “What Stars Are Made Of: The Life of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin.” (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020. 320 Pp.) History of Education Quarterly 61, no. 1 (2021): 106–8. doi:10.1017/heq.2020.69.

Outreach Publications

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