This week for STEM Friday we were inspired by a book, Magnificent Minds: 16 Pioneering Women in Science and Medicine by Pendred E. Noyce. It is a collection of biographies of women who made important discoveries in fields of STEM and health care.

Moving chronologically from the birth of midwife Louise Bourgeois Boursier in 1563 to the death of chemist and drug discoverer Gertrude Elion in 1999, the author has taken a novel look at the accomplishments of these women. For example, Florence Nightingale is known for her nursing skills, but Noyce suggests those skills were improved by Nightingale’s reliance on statistics and evidence-based research.

The book is organized into chapters that are separate biographies of each of the women. Because the chapters stand alone, readers can easily page to an individual subject of their choice. Also, at the beginning of each chapter is a well-researched timeline that gives details of not only that woman’s life, but also with significant events that occurred during her lifetime. For example, the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris and Bell’s invention of the telephone occurred during Sofia Kovalevskaya’s lifetime. The timelines help tremendously to add context.

Magnificent Minds will thrill those interested in history, particularly the history of STEM and medicine. It would also make a good choice for encouraging girls and young women to pursue STEM careers.

Related Activity:

Why highlight women scientists? Let’s take a quiz.

A. Do you recognize this woman who made important contributions to STEM? What was her contribution?

Ada_Lovelace_portrait(Public domain image from Wikimedia)

B. How about this woman? What was her field of expertise?

FlorenceMerriam1904(Public domain photograph retrieved at Wikimedia)

She was born in 1863.

C. Do you recognize the scientist below? She was born in 1902.

Barbara_McClintock_(1902-1992)(Acc. 90-105 – Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives Persistent URL:Link to data base record Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives View more collections from the Smithsonian Institution.)

How did you do? Did you struggle to identify them? These women were groundbreakers with great passion for their subjects of study. People are now beginning to appreciate their unique contributions.


A. Augusta Ada Byron, Countess Lovelace

Showing a talent for mathematics, Augusta Byron helped with and wrote about some of the early analytical machines that were precursors to computers. She was thought to have published the first computer algorithm. Her work was cut short by illness and her death at a young age. Her biography is featured in Magnificent Minds.

B. The second scientist is ornithologist and writer Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey.

Augusta Bailey is known for writing some of the earliest field guides to birds. She also campaigned against the widespread use of bird feathers in fashion. She is not covered in Magnificent Minds, but you can read more about her at this Women of Courage profile.

C. The last scientist is Nobel Prize winner, Barbara McClintock.

McClintock studied the genetics of corn and uncovered gene movement, or the so-called “jumping genes.” Her biography is also covered in the book and our previous post.

Additional Resources:

The National Academies as an interactive website about Women’s Adventures in Science.

Check our list of 21+ Children’s Books about Women Scientists at Science Books for Kids.


Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Hardcover: 180 pages
Publisher: Tumblehome Learning, Inc. (March 1, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0989792471
ISBN-13: 978-0989792479

Disclosure: The books was provided electronically for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.