This collection of books that feature women scientists has been a work in progress for the past couple of years- every time we would find a new book, I would add it to my draft. I am sure I will continue to add more books as I find them:). I have divided the books into fields of science, and hope that you find some inspiring stories amongst these fantastic non-fiction books about women scientists for kids!
The Elephant Scientist, by Caitlin O’Connell & Donna M Jackson. My younger daughter pored over the pictures in this book about Caitlin O’Connell–the American scientist who traveled to Namibia to study African elephants in their natural habitat (and one of the authors of this book!). If your kids love animals, this is an awesome story with amazing photography. We loved this book so much!
Jane Goodall- what can I say? She is our favorite of all of the women scientists:). I have a whole post about Jane Goodall with resources, but here are our four favorite books:
My Life with the Chimpanzees, by Jane Goodall
Who is Jane Goodall?, by Roberta Edwards. Great chapter book for 2nd and up!
The Watcher, by Jeanette Winter. We love how it starts in her childhood- I think we’ve read this at least 20 times.
Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas. This was a Christmas present 2 years ago and is another favorite. It is a non-fiction, graphic novel of three of the greatest primatologists ever, who are also really three of the leading scientists of our time.
Mae Jemison by Nancy Polette. If you haven’t heard of Mae Jemison, go right now and check out one of her many biographies! Mae Jemison is a super-scientist who began as a chemical engineer, became a medical doctor, was an excellent dancer, a peace corps volunteer, and was a NASA astronaut. Rookie Readers are simple books for early readers, but still present intelligent ad interesting information. There are other more advanced biographies about the amazing Mae Jemison here.
Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypathia, by D. Anne Love. Hypathia lived way back in the 4th Century in Egypt, and was an anomaly of her time. Not only did she study, read, and write, but she became a brilliant astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher. It’s pretty remarkable to imagine a woman scientist as successful as Hypathia during this time!
To the Stars! The First American Woman to Walk in Space by Camella Van Vleet and Dr Kathy Sullivan. Kathy Sullivan was one of the first women selected by NASA, and this inspiring story tells how her love of science began when she was a child despite being teased that science wasn’t for girls.
Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Women Astronomer by Robert Burleigh. Henrietta Swan Leavitt lived in the late 1800’s, when women were definitely not encouraged into science. As a 25 year old, she spent years measuring star positions and sizes taken by the telescope at the Harvard College Observatory, where she worked. Her observations and discoveries “made it possible for astronomers to measure greater and greater distances—leading to our present understanding of the vast size of the universe.”
Women in Space: 23 Stories of First Flights, Scientific Missions, and Gravity-Breaking Adventures by Karen Bush Gibson. Something I love about this book is that it is so diverse in the people they have chosen: both in their origins (from all over the globe) and also in their careers, highlighting pilots, but also doctors and engineers within the space program. No matter what aspect of science interests your kids, there will be a biography here that will excite them.
Tree Lady, by H. Joseph Hopkins. Kate Sessions grew up in Northern California surrounded by towering trees. When she is the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science (in the 1880s), she takes a job as a teacher in San Diego. Her love of trees drives her to transform dry San Diego from a desert into a lush city full of leafy, shaded parks. We were surprised to learn that visitors to San Diego can still visit her parks today!
Marie Curie: Scientist Who Made Glowing Discoveries by Mike Venezia. There are many great books about Marie Curie, but one reason we loved this one was the clever, cartoon-style illustrations and easy to read facts and stories that actually had us laughing out loud. There are other books (mainly about men) in the series “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Inventors & Scientists.” We liked the DK Biography: Marie Cure and also the chapter book Who is Marie Curie? of the “Who was…?” series.
Computer Science (and Robotics)
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, by Laurie Wallmark. Even though the machine illustrated in the book does not look anything like what we think of as a “computer,” (my kids kept asking- is that really a computer!?) this was in fact the first mechanical computer! Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world’s first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities.
Robo World: The Story of Robot Designer Cynthia Breazeal by Jordan D. Brown. “Cynthia Breazeal is a roboticist, a scientist who designs, builds, and experiments with robots. As a child, she relied on movies to see robots in action. Now robots are part of her daily life at the MIT Media Lab.” This book was difficult to find, but it is available on amazon if your library doesn’t have it. My son loves anything related to robots, and was fascinated by the way these robots looked and the technology that Cynthia is using to program them.
Grace Hopper: Computer Pioneer, by Joanne Mattern. Amazon has many books listed for Grace Hopper, one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer in 1944, and inventor of the first compiler for a computer programming language. Our library had this wonderful book, which is detailed enough for a biography research project, but clear enough for a 3rd grader to learn about this intelligent scientist.
Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor, by Emily Arnold McCully. Margaret Knight was a prolific inventor, even if she never officially studied engineering. This story showcases one of the first women to receive a U.S. patent, detailing many of her inventions that we still use today.
Mars Science Lab Engineer Diana Trujillo, by Kari Cornell. Diana Trujillo always wanted to work for NASA. She moved from Colombia to the US to learn English and pursue her dream. After studying to be an aerospace engineer, she quickly got a job at NASA, worked on the Mars rover Curiosity, and became the lead engineer. She is such an inspiration for young girls, immigrants, and anyone interested in science.
Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives if Six Pioneering Naturalists by Jeannine Atkins. The six women scientists and naturalists highlighted in this book are Maria Merian (b.1647), Anna Comstock (b.1854), Frances Hamerstrom (b.1907), Rachel Carson (b.1907), Miriam Rothschild (b.1908), and Jane Goodall (b.1934). My kids all really enjoyed reading the different biographies here (in chapter book form), and learning about how important their work is in nature conservation.
Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World, by Laurie Lawlor. Rachel Carson was a marine biologist and conservationist who wrote Silent Spring, a book that brought environmental concerns to the American people and highlighted the dangers of polluting pesticides. My older daughter loves writing, and I think this book showed her the power of a book to bring on a global environmental movement, and literally change the world. Rachel Carson: Clearing the Way for Environmental Protection is another book about this conservationist, as part of the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Inventors & Scientists. Its cartoon illustrations and silly quips keep kids laughing as they learn about her impactful life.
Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, by Margarita Engle is one of the very first books we read (years ago!) about women scientists. We had ordered a butterfly kit and my kids were so interested in watching the metamorphosis process (see our pictures here!). I took out a bunch of books including Summer Birds. We were fascinated to learn that in the Middle Ages, young Maria Merian didn’t agree that butterflies came from mud, and set out to observe them and discover how they changed from a caterpillar to a butterfly. She studied the cycle and documented it, disapproving a theory that went all the way back to ancient Greece! Maria was also a talented artist, and we found this second book- A Butterfly Journey by Maria Sibylla Merian (herself!)- with the engravings and watercolors of the butterflies she studied during her lifetime in Germany and the Netherlands. This is my daughters *dream*- to be an animal scientist, study lemurs, and write and illustrate books for kids about them:).
Forecast Earth by Renee Skelton tells the story of Inez Fung, a climate scientist from Hong Kong. This book was harder to find in my library (yay for interlibrary loans!) but is part of an excellent series called “Women’s Adventures in Science” by Joseph Henry Press. If you’re children are interested in climate change, this book not only highlights Inez Fung, but also explains weather patterns, computer models of the Earth based on scientific data, discusses the Earth’s climate in the past and present, and predicts the future of our climate.
Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Robert Burleigh. Marie Tharp is an acclaimed
geologist and oceanographic cartographer who first mapped the ocean floor. She overcomes gender discrimination and the idea that having women on ships was unlucky, and shows us that despite difficulties, women can succeed with perseverance.
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola. Life in the Ocean is one of the first books that inspired this post- my daughter loved how the story started when Sylvia was a curious child who loved to explore nature (just like my daughter!). We get a beautiful look at Sylvia’s life and her love for our seas, and a lesson in the environmental concerns with the oceans. I think stories about women scientists like these energize kids because they can picture themselves having the same adventures, and visualize the possibilities for themselves in the future.
Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon, by Jeannine Atkins. There are many books for Mary Anning, including chapter books, picture books, and easy readers, but we liked this picture book, and its stories and illustrations the best. Mary Anning was born in England in 1799, and at the young age of 12 she made an astounding discovery near her home of the first full skeleton of an ichthyosaur. She continued to search for and study fossils throughout her life despite the disapproval of people in her town.
Lise Meitner Had the Right Vision about Nuclear Fission, by Mike Venezia. This book is another in the series of “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Inventors & Scientists,” and like the others, the cartoon illustrations and funny text keeps the reader smiling and engaged as they move through the text. As an Austrian physicist, Lize Meitner discovered nuclear fission of Uranium. Because she was Jewish, she lost her position as a physic professor during the Nazi regime. She fled to Sweden and lived there the rest of her life. We found out that the 1944 Nobel Prize for Chemistry was only given to her partner, and in 1990 it was determined to be “unjust.”
Strong Force: The Story of Physicist Shirley Ann Jackson, by Dianne O’Connell. This book is aimed at Middle Schoolers and above (age 12+), and tells the story of a leading physicist who happens to be an African-American women. She began her love of science as a girl who collected bumblebees and raced go-carts, and as she grew up her talent in math shined. She’s now an expert in the invisible, subatomic particles that make up everything in the universe.
Anthologies with Women Scientists
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, by Rachel Ignotofsky
“Women in Science celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors, astronauts, physicists, and more!” This new book showcases 50 women scientists from many different scientific fields, from every ethnicity around the world. “Women in Science” celebrates well-known chemist Marie Curie, chemist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, mathematician and computer programmer Ada Lovelace, primatologist Jane Goodall, physicist and mathematician Katherine Johnson, NASA computer programmer and mathematician Annie Easley, particle physicist Sau Lan Wu, and cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock among other stellar women scientists.
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh. This book is fascinating for adults and kids- every single page we were in awe of the inventions and stories behind the women scientists who came up with them! An added bonus: the illustrations by Caldecott Honor artist Melissa Sweet sand by themselves and elevate the stories even more. “Features women inventors Ruth Wakefield, Mary Anderson, Stephanie Kwolek, Bette Nesmith Graham, Patsy O. Sherman, Ann Moore, Grace Murray Hopper, Margaret E. Knight, Jeanne Lee Crews, and Valerie L. Thomas, as well as young inventors ten-year-old Becky Schroeder and eleven-year-old Alexia Abernathy.”
I hope you enjoyed these books about women scientists! Join us for our second annual Women’s History Month series, celebrating the contributions and accomplishments of women around the world. Follow along all month plus link up your own posts below! Don’t miss our series from last year, and find even more posts on our Women’s History board on Pinterest:
A Crafty Arab
The Art Curator for Kids
Kid World Citizen
Crafty Moms Share
La Cité des Vents
All Done Monkey
Creative World of Varya
Family in Finland