University of Cambridge lecturer to showcase new book at the Cambridge Literary Festival

PUBLISHED: 16:51 30 March 2018 | UPDATED: 17:15 30 March 2018

Dr Patricia Fara

Dr Patricia Fara

Kate Farquhar-Thomson

Dr Patricia Fara is an author and history of science lecturer at the University of Cambridge, where she is also a fellow of Clare College

A Lab of One's Own coverA Lab of One's Own cover

Having studied physics as an undergraduate, Dr Fara is now the president of the British Society for the History of Science and will be discussing her latest tome, A Lab of One’s Own, at next month’s Cambridge Literary Festival.

The book explores the role of female scientists, doctors and engineers during the First World War.

She told the Cambridge Independent: “When I was in the archives at Newnham College, I was shown a handwritten book that was compiled by two women at Newnham just after the First World War.

“It lists all the Newnham women – the teachers as well as the students – who contributed to the war effort, and the first few pages were full of women who were doing all sorts of scientific work.

Edith Saunders, geneticist, plant anatomist and director of studies at both Girton College and Newnham CollegeEdith Saunders, geneticist, plant anatomist and director of studies at both Girton College and Newnham College

“A lot of them had earned medals from our country, but also from other countries, and I just wondered why I had never heard anything about these women. I was determined to find out more.”

Dr Fara says that a lot of women were torn between doing their patriotic duty and the guilt of knowing that they would be responsible for the death of German soldiers, depriving women of their husbands and children of their fathers.

She said: “At the time, there were a lot of women – and men – who thought it was completely wrong that women should be doing that sort of work, and women should be dedicating themselves to their families because that’s the natural existence of women.

“But I think now, if we want to say that women and men should enjoy equal positions in society and equal remuneration for the same work, then we have to accept that women as well as men are going to do things like develop explosives.”

Women performing an operation in 1917Women performing an operation in 1917

Dr Fara will be talking at the Cambridge Literary Festival on Friday, April 13 at 4.30pm. Price: £11/£9

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