Women in Science during the Modern Era: Meredith K. Ray’s Latest Book

On March 28, 2023 Meredith K. Ray (University of Delaware) presented her latest book titled Figlie dell’alchimia’ (Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura 2022), translated by Rolf Bagemihl and Stefano U. Baldassarri (Director, ISI Florence).

“The gold hidden in the mines / is not lacking in being gold, though buried / and when it is extracted and made into work / it is as rich and beautiful as the other gold.”

In this photo, from left to right:
Stefano Baldassarri (ISI Florence), Meredith Ray (author), and Natacha Fabbri (Museo Galileo)

With this image, in 1581, the Venetian Moderata Fonte alluded to the unexpressed potential of women, comparing it to “buried gold” that only awaited discovery. ‘Figlie dell’alchimia’ has a similar goal in examining the works of some Italian female intellectuals of the early modern era: from Caterina Sforza’s “Experiments” (an extraordinary figure who aroused the admiration of Niccolò Machiavelli) to Isabella Cortese’s “book of secrets” and the proto-feminist works of Lucrezia Marinella, from Camilla Erculiani’s “Letters of Natural Philosophy” to the correspondence between Margherita Sarrocchi and Galileo.

Meredith Ray has explored the panorama of Italian scientific culture between the 16th and 17th centuries to rediscover the important contribution provided to it by women’s thinking.