A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention

A Passion for Science cover

From the identification of the Horsehead Nebula to the creation of the computer program, from the development of in vitro fertilisation to the detection of pulsars, A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention brings together inspiring stories of how we achieved some of the most important breakthroughs in science and technology.

But it’s not just the inventors and the pioneers whose stories we hear in this volume, we also hear about the equally important users of technology: The Polish radio girl who risked her life in World War II to feed intelligence to the resistance via her illegal radio set, and the family of refugees who fled to the UK and whose most treasured possession was a sewing machine. This might be everyday technology, but these are not everyday stories.

Only one thing unites these stories, whether it is the ground-breaking use of scuba diving to study sharks, or the remarkable posse of ‘Trowelblazers’ spearheading the study of archaeology, geology and palaeontology — all our protagonists are women.

Find out about scuba-diving ichthyologist Eugenie Clarke, known as The Shark Lady, and Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, whose discovery revolutionised our understanding of how stars could behave. We also hear about Chien-Shiung Wu whose decision to study physics in America just prior to World War II had not just a profound effect on her life but also on the success of the Manhattan Project, and Joan Feynman, whose work on the solar wind not only helps explain auroras, it is also still used by the satellite industry. And, of course, no FindingAda.com book would be complete without a look Ada Lovelace herself, the first computer programmer and mother of computer science.

Frequently unsung, often underpaid and under-appreciated, and sometimes misrepresented, these women defied social convention and endemic sexism to excel. They persevered, even when the outlook was bleak and the barriers were high, and they achieved greatness.

Download A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention now from Amazon, for just £1.99.


  1. Eugenie Clark: Meeting the Shark Lady – Helen Scales
  2. Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Expanding celestial horizons – Jacqui Farnham
  3. Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin: A life in Oxford science – Georgina Ferry
  4. Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw: Puzzles, bubbles and lattices – Katie Steckles
  5. Penny Gowland: Tutor, mentor and pioneer – Heather Williams
  6. Williamina Fleming: Star of Scotland – Sue Nelson
  7. Dame Anne McLaren: From one generation to the next – Kat Arney
  8. Ada Lovelace: Victorian computing visionary – Suw Charman-Anderson
  9. “The Crow”: Poland’s radio girl – Aleks Krotoski
  10. Dr Florence Bascom: Sounding the abyss of science – Jessica Ball
  11. Karen Spärck Jones: Unravelling natural language – Bill Thompson
  12. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: What is the Universe made of? – Alice Sheppard
  13. Jean Golding OBE: Children of the 90s – Suzi Gage
  14. Sewing the future – Helen Czerski
  15. A splendid regiment of women: 20th century archaeologists and palaeontologists – Rebecca Wragg Sykes, Victoria Herridge, Brenna Hassett and  Suzanne Pilaar Birch
  16. Chien-Shiung Wu: Courageous hero of physics – Maia Weinstock
  17. Joan Feynman: From auroras to anthropology – Chris Riley
  18. Stephanie Kwolek: Inventor of Kevlar – Suze Kundu
  19. Vera Peters: “Cutting the Gordian Knot” – Joan Reinhardt-Reiss
  20. Hertha Marks Ayrton: An electric woman – Elizabeth Bruton


“Pass these inspiring stories to everyone you know. First of all, because they’re a brilliant read, secondly because they are a powerful, important and engaging record of women’s experiences in science and technology. Some stories I thought I knew, others were completely fresh to me, but every one captured the spirit of a woman I would have loved to have been. Some might even make you a bit cross and even more determined to celebrate our contemporary female role models. Captivating, inspiring and a brilliant read.”
— Maggie Philbin, journalist and TV presenter

“An utterly marvellous collection of well written, heartfelt and thought-provoking tales. The fact that they are all true only adds to their intrigue and impact. It’s a great book — I couldn’t quite put it down.”
— Fran Scott, scientist and TV presenter


Contributors & acknowledgements

Foreword by Jemima Kiss. Chapters from physicist Dr Helen Czerski, journalist Bill Thompson, marine biologist Dr Helen Scales, broadcaster Sue Nelson, epidemiologist Suzi Gage, writer Maia Weinstock, writer and filmmaker Professor Christopher Riley, filmmaker Jacqui Farnham, Georgina Ferry, mathematician Katie Steckles, medical physicist Dr Heather Williams, science communicator Dr Kat Arney, journalist Aleks Krotoski, geologist Jessica Ball, astrophysicist Alice Sheppard, archaeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes, palaeobiologist Victoria Herridge, physical anthropologist Brenna Hassett and archaeologist Suzanne Pilaar Birch, nanochemist Suze Kundu, campaigner Joan Reinhardt-Reiss, and science historian Dr Elizabeth Bruton.

Edited by Suw Charman-Anderson.

Cover by Edie Freedman.

Thanks to our editorial volunteers for their invaluable assistance: Miriam Bauer, Kevin Anderson, Korvin Mobb, Mike Janssen, Robin Whitney, Hilary Dixon, Fred Kiesche. Thanks also to O’Reilly Media for their support and especially for allowing me to use their editorial platform to facilitate the collaboration necessary for a book of this nature.