For every Marie Curie or Rosalind Franklin whose story has been told, hundreds of female scientists remain unknown to the public at large. In this series, we illuminate the lives and work of a diverse array of groundbreaking scientists who, because of time, place and gender, have gone largely unrecognized. Each season we focus on a different scientist, putting her narrative into context, explaining not just the science but also the social and historical conditions in which she lived and worked. We also bring these stories to the present, painting a full picture of how her work endures.
Welcome to the first in our From Our Inbox series, in which we give listeners a taste of the mail we get from folks wanting to bring a particular forgotten scientist to our attention. Here’s the story of Alessandra Giliani, brought to us by Barbara Quick, an author and poet in the San Francisco Bay Area.
There’s a persistent myth in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy about Alessandra Giliani, a 14th-century girl who defied the laws of Church and state to attend medical school. The most concrete evidence of her existence comes in the form of illuminated manuscripts depicting an assistant to anatomist Mondino de Liuzzi who appears to be a cross-dressed woman. In this episode, associate producer Mackenzie Tatananni speaks with author Barbara Quick about Alessandra’s discoveries, which were well ahead of their time.