Two Generations Of NAS Couples Reflect Changing Role Of Women

When scientists are wed to their labs as well as to each other, they can encounter extraordinary personal and professional challenges In 1939, on the eve of war in Europe, Gertrude Scharff felt that marriage to a fellow scientist working in the United States offered her the best chance to survive as a physicist. Her husband, she hoped, represented her ticket to greater opportunities to carry out research. Forty years later, the tables were turned for neurobiologist Patricia Goldman. Goldman w

Elizabeth Pennisi
Nov 25, 1990
When scientists are wed to their labs as well as to each other, they can encounter extraordinary personal and professional challenges
In 1939, on the eve of war in Europe, Gertrude Scharff felt that marriage to a fellow scientist working in the United States offered her the best chance to survive as a physicist. Her husband, she hoped, represented her ticket to greater opportunities to carry out research.

Forty years later, the tables were turned for neurobiologist Patricia Goldman. Goldman worried that tying the knot with another established neurobiologist might have a negative effect on her career. To be with him, she would have to abandon a senior position at the National Institute of Mental Health and, in mid-career, join the academic rat race.

Both women did marry professional colleagues. They stand out among the thousands of women scientists in the United States not because they are married to scientists...

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