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Bulletin No. 223-6



The Outlook
for Women

Physics and

Bulletin of the Women’s Bureau No. 223-6


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government
Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C.

Price 15 cents

This bulletin is No. 223-6 in the following series on

No. 223-1
No. 223-2
No. 223-3
No. 223^
No. 223-5
No. 223-6
No. 223-7

The Outlook for Women in Science
The Outlook for Women in Chemistry
The Outlook for Women in the Biological Sciences
The Outlook for Women in Mathematics and Statistics
The Outlook for Women in Architecture and Engineering
The Outlook for Women in Physics and Astronomy
The Outlook for Women in Geology, Geography, and
No. 223-8 The Outlook for Women in Occupations Related to Science

Note on Pagination—Throughout the series, page numbers show both the
volume number and the page number in that volume. For example, page 24 in
volume 3 is shown as 3-24; in volume 6, as 6-24.



United States Department



Women’s Bureau,

Washington, December 22,1947.
I have the honor of transmitting a description of the outlook
for women in physics and astronomy which has been prepared as a
part of a study on the outlook for women in science. The extraordi­
nary demand for women with scientific training during World War II
and the resulting questions which came to the Women’s Bureau
prompted us to undertake this study. The paucity of published in­
formation on women in science and the encouragement of the scientists
and educators who were consulted in the course of this study confirmed
the need for the information here assembled and synthesized. The
study was planned and directed by Marguerite Wykoff Zapoleon and
completed with the assistance of Elsie Katclier Goodman and Mary H.
Brilla of the Employment Opportunities Section of the Bureau’s Re­
search Division. Other members of the Bureau staff who helped to
broaden the coverage of this study through interviews in the field
were regional representatives Margaret Kay Anderson, Martha J.
Ziegler, Rebecca G. Smaltz, and another member of the research staff,
Jennie Mohr. Corinne LaBarre, research assistant, of the Western
Personnel Institute, Pasadena, Calif., furnished the information ob­
tained from western colleges.
The part of the study here transmitted was written by Elsie Katcher
Str :

Respectfully submitted.
Frieda S. Miller,


Hon. L. B. Schwellenbach,

Secretary of Labor.


Much has been written about science and scientists, but little has
been told about the work women trained in science have done and can
do in the future.
Although these women are few in number when compared to men m
science or to women in such occupations as teaching and nursing, their
contribution to the national welfare, so strikingly demonstrated in
World War II, goes forward daily in the laboratories, classrooms,
offices, and plants in which they work.
The every-day story of where these women work, of what kind of
work they are doing, and of what other young women who join theii
ranks in the future may do has been the subject of this report on the
outlook for women in science. Unlike the usual monograph which
describes an occupation in detail at a particular point in time, this
study, like the Women’s Bureau series on occupations in the medical
and health services which preceded it, is concerned primarily with
changes and trends.
Although more than 800 hooks, articles, or pamphlets were culled
for background information, the principal raw material for the entire
study of which this bulletin is a part came from such primary sources
as scientific organizations, employers and trainers of women scientists,
and men and women scientists themselves. Principal sources were
as follows:
Scientific organizations: The National Research Council supplied
useful directories of scientific laboratories and organizations.
Helpful criticism and direction to other authorities were ob­
tained from its Office of Scientific Personnel. Sixty separate
organizations of scientists supplied information on their women
members, by interview or correspondence.
Federal agencies: Unpublished information on personnel in
scientific fields was supplied by:
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics,
The National Roster of Scientific and Specialized Personnel,
The United States Office of Education,
The United States Civil Service Commission, and
The United States Public Health Service.
In addition, 52 separate bureaus, offices, or other operating
units of the Federal Government known to employ scientists
were solicited for information regarding the number of women




employed on jobs requiring scientific training and the type of
work they were doing. Detailed statistics over a period of
years were available from some agencies, while only fragmentaiy data were obtained from others. The women’s military
services likewise supplied information on the wartime use of
women trained in science in the WAC, WAVES, and the Marine
Private industry: One hundred industrial firms were visited in
1945 and 1946 to obtain information, usually by interview with
the director of research or the personnel director, on the women
employed by any part of the organization in any capacity re­
quiring scientific training of college level. Prewar, wartime,
and postwar statistics were obtained where available, as well
as suggestions and comments. In many instances, some of the
women in scientific work were interviewed on the job. The
firms visited included:
Seventy-eight firms listed in the National Research Council’s
1J46 directory of 2,443 firms having research laboratories.
The films visited are listed in the directory as employing
24,816 persons as scientific or technical personnel in their
laboratories. This number represented 28 percent of the
total personnel of this type estimated as employed in all the
laboratories listed. In addition to this numerical cover­
age, an attempt was made to include among the 78 firms
visited small as well as large firms, plants in all parts of
the United States, and a variety of industries. However
the intricate industrial organization, inter-relationships,5
and variety of research revealed in the directory, added to
the fact that some firms did not report personnel statistics
and none reported women separately, made the selection of
a true sample complicated beyond its value for this purpose.
The firms visited were chosen rather as a clue to indus­
trial firms most likely to be engaged in the type of work
in which women trained in science are used. In all firms,
information was requested for the entire organization
rather than for the research laboratory only.
Eighteen commercial testing laboratories which offer testing
services to industry and individuals and which employed
women were also visited. Seven others contacted did not
employ women. These 25 laboratories represented 10 per­
cent of the 244 commercial testing laboratories listed in the
National Bureau of Standard’s 1942 Directory of Commer­
cial Testing and College Research Laboratories. Since



personnel is not reported in the Directory, there is no clue to
the coverage of workers.
Three large additional industrial firms which employed
women in laboratory work, but were not listed as having
research laboratories, were visited, as was one biological
supply house.
Research institutions: Eight research institutions or centers, some
of them identified with a particular college or university, also
supplied information on women members of the scientific staff.
Colleges and universities: Statistical information on the number
of women graduated with degrees in science, mathematics, and
engineering over a period of years from 1939-40 to 1946 was
obtained from 30 colleges and universities and from 9 engineer­
ing schools. Again an attempt was made to obtain wide geo­
graphical coverage and to cover different types of institutions,
such as women’s colleges, State universities, and small liberal
arts colleges. The information available from these sources, too,
varied. Placement bureaus and heads of science departments
as well as deans of women at these institutions and at six other
colleges contributed reports on the demand for women trained
in the sciences. The Western Personnel Institute made pos­
sible the inclusion of data which it collected for the Bureau
from its affiliated colleges and universities in the far West.
Since no recent data were available on the number of women
teaching science in the colleges, a count was made in 1947 of
the women identifiable by name who were listed on science
faculties in the catalogs of 330 institutions of higher learning
which were then available in the United States Office of Edu­
cation Library. These institutions were selected because they
are believed by the United States Office of Education to be
representative in their enrollments of the 1,749 institutions of
higher education in the United States and, therefore, are likely
to have faculties equally representative.
Other sources: In addition, 97 individuals not included in the
afore-mentioned sources, most of them women scientists, con­
tributed information, suggestions, or helpful criticisms of the
preliminary manuscripts circulated before revision for publi­
While every effort has been made to obtain wide coverage, there
remain some dark corners still unexplored because of the range and
variety of these fields and the difficulty of obtaining information from
widely scattered sources. Perhaps this beginning will result in further
additions to our so-little knowledge.
772329°—48------ 2

Courtesy National Bureau of Standards

Figure 1.—A physicist testing the performance of oxygen regulators at
high altitude in the Aeronautical Instruments Section of the National
Bureau of Standards.



Letter of transmittal______________________________________________
The outlook for women in physics--------------------Prewar distribution1
Annual addition to the supply--------------------------------------------------Wartime changes----------------------------- --------------------------------------Earnings and advancement 6-10
Organizations 6-11
The outlook---------------- -------------------------------------- ------------- ------The outlook for women in astronomy-----------------------------------------------Prewar distribution-----------Annual addition to the supply--------------------------------------------------Wartime changes 6-21
Earnings, hours, and advancement--------------------------------------------Organizations 6-24
The outlook 6-24
Minimum education and experience requirements for application for
beginning Federal civil service positions as:
Physicist 6-28
Astronomer 6-28
Minimum requirements for membership in the American Association of
Physics Teachers 6-29
Minimum requirements for membership in the American Astronomical
Society 6-29
List of colleges and universities offering the Ph. D. in astronomy----------Sources to which reference is made in the text------------------Tables:
1. Distribution by highest academic degree held of 11,615 men and
women registered in physics with the National Roster of Scientific and
Specialized Personnel, 1944
2. Distribution by highest academic degree held of 346 men and
women registered in astronomy with the National Roster of Scientific
and Specialized Personnel, 1946
1. Physicist testing the performance of oxygen regulators at high altitude.
2. A faculty member of the Purdue University Department of Physics..
3. Astronomer adjusting the Photographic Zenith Telescope----------------4. Student assistants in astronomy “manning” a telescope-------------------





Definition of Physicist by the War Policy Committee of the
American Institute of Physics (4)
“A. A physicist is one whose training and experience lie in the study
and applications of the interactions between matter and energy in the
fields of mechanics, acoustics, optics, heat, electricity, magnetism,
radiation, atomic structure, and nuclear phenomena.
“B. To qualify as a professional physicist one must have had at
least 8 years of training and experience in physics. Toward this ex­
perience 4 years of formal collegiate education with major emphasis
on physics may be credited, year for year, if it leads to a bachelor’s
degree, 5 yeai'S if it leads to a master’s degree, and 7 years if it leads to
a doctor’s degree, from a recognized institution. Years of teaching
of physics in a recognized institution may be credited as years of
experience in physics. By a recognized institution is meant one which
appears in the list of institutions approved by the Association of
American Universities.”
Occupational Summary of the Profession of Physicist by the
National Roster of Scientific and Specialized Personnel (43)
“Physics is the science that deals with matter, motion, and energy.
Recognized areas of specialization within this field are mechanics,
heat, sound, light, electricity and magnetism, electronics and ionics,
radio, atomic and nuclear physics, properties of materials, theoretical
physics and biophysics. Other specialties relate to the application of
the fundamental principles of the science to industrial problems,
especially with highly precise and delicate measuring instruments,
radio design and manufacture, optical instruments, and physical test­
ing of materials.”

Recent research in nuclear physics and its wartime applications
to the atomic bomb have brought unusual prominence to the 12,000
men and women physicists of the United States (41). Their work
in fundamental scientific research also made possible the recent and,
from the point of view of wartime strategy, the equally important de­
velopments in radar and electronics. In these fields, as well as in
others less popularly known, the contributions of some 500 American
women trained in physics have not gone unrecognized, although they
form only 4 percent of all physicists (4-7).
Prewar Distribution
The number of physicists in the United States before the war varied
from an estimated 4,000 to 6,000, depending upon how physicists were
defined (29). The more conservative defined the profession rigidly
and usually included graduate training or its equivalent as a criterion.
Most of the physicists were employed in university and college teach­
ing, in industrial research and development, or in fundamental re­
search in Government agencies or research foundations.
By far the largest number, some 3,000, were in universities and col­
leges, engaged in teaching, and sometimes in research, as time and
facilities permitted (12). Qualifications set for physics faculties were
very high; probably more than half had the Ph. D. (42). That teach­
ing was the principal prewar outlet for physicists is further indicated
by the fact that, in 1940, more than 60 percent of the 1,100 persons
who had received the doctorate in physics in the previous decade were
employed in institutions of higher education (21).
The number of women physicists engaged in college teaching before
the war is not known, but the proportion in teaching was possibly as
high as or higher than that of the men. For example, of the 12 women
graduated with a degree in physics by the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology whose 1940 employment is known, half were teaching.
Two of the women were serving as full professors, two as assistant
professors, one as a teaching assistant, and one was a teacher part
time in addition to her work as an astronomer. About three-fourths
of the 42 women physicists listed in the 1938 directory of American
Men of Science were teaching. Twenty-nine of these women held
the doctorate and 11 the master’s degree (33).
Physics teachers in secondary schools usually cannot be classified
as physicists, since most of them do not have even undergraduate de-




grees in physics. A survey made of physics teachers in Pennsylvania
high schools before the war revealed that more than 40 percent had
less than 12 semester hours in physics, whereas double that number
would ordinarily be the minimum required for a college major in
physics. Most of these physics teachers also taught other high-school
subjects, usually chemistry or mathematics; many of the men served
as athletic coaches or as administrators (35).
In 1940, 2,030 physicists were engaged in industrial research (51).
They were employed in such industries as the manufacture of electrical,
radio, and communications equipment; professional and scientific
instruments; automobiles and airplanes; glass; iron and steel and
machinery; and petroleum and chemicals (41). But opportunities
for women physicists in industrial research laboratories were very
limited. Of the 12 women physicists graduated by the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology whose prewar employment is known, only 2
secured jobs in industry; 1 was employed as a technician, and the
other was working in a chemical laboratory. Of the 78 firms having
industrial research laboratories surveyed by the Women’s Bureau in
1945—46, only 4 reported that they employed women trained in physics
before the war.
With rare exceptions, the few women found in industry were en­
gaged in fairly routine duties, involving some knowledge of physics,
or mathematics and physics. For example, in an engineering and
physical testing laboratory a woman with a major in physics divided
her time between working in the technical library and assisting a the­
oretical physicist with computations. Another young woman with an
M. S. in physics was working as an assistant spectroscopist with a
company manufacturing chemicals and chemical products.
In 1939, the American Physical Society reported that more than
100 of its members were employed in the Federal Government, over
half of them in the National Bureau of Standards. The others were
employed in the Naval [Research Laboratory, the Department of Agri­
culture, the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Bureau of Mines, the
Smithsonian Institution, the Washington Navy Yard, the Public
Health Service, or the Geological Survey (13). The small number
of women physicists in the Federal Government before the war is
indicated by a Women’s Bureau study of 1938, which reported only
25 women, excluding chemists and mathematicians, classified as
geologists and physical scientists, and most of these 25 women were
probably geologists (48). Reports from college placement bureaus
suggest that the few employed as physicists were hired by the Navy
Department or the National Bureau of Standards.
On the whole, the prewar employment of women physicists tended
to be similar to that of men. A report from five colleges on the initial



placements of 19 women graduated with a degree in physics just before
the war indicated that: 5 went into teaching, 4 into Government, 3
into industry, 2 continued with further graduate work, 2 had no
occupation, and 3 were engaged in miscellaneous pursuits.
Annual Addition to the Supply
Before the war, the universities and colleges produced annually
about 400 physicists with advanced degrees, of whom about 160 men
and women were Ph. D.’s {Ifi) (52). Probably less than 4 percent of
these degrees were awarded to women, essentially the same proportion
that women formed of all physicists.
The interest of women science students in undergraduate courses in
physics was low. In the midthirties, the ratio of women majoring in
physics to those majoring in chemistry was 1 to 6, and to those major­
ing in biology it was 1 to 10, according to a survey of women’s colleges
(U). The prevailing attitude was that physics was very difficult, and
girls were advised not to attempt it. The college woman who wished
to major in physics was sometimes discouraged by being told that there
would be no opportunities to use it professionally. In 1940, in spite
of efforts to make courses in physics more attractive because of their
growing importance in national defense, there was little increase in
the interest of women students (£). The small number of women
majoring in physics before the war was reflected later in a survey made
by the National Poster, which found that only 125 women seniors were
expected to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in physics in 1942-13 (40).
Wartime Changes
Early in the war, the supply of persons trained in physics was found
to be far short of the needs of the country’s wartime program. At a
time when industry, Government, and the armed services were clamor­
ing for more physicists, the universities and colleges were struggling
to get along with diminishing faculties and a depleted student body.
By 1942, the shortage of manpower in physics, especially that available
for teaching, had reached the proportions of a national emergency, ac­
cording to the War Policy Committee of the American Institute of
Physics (31).
In 1942, only 1,000 graduate students in physics, 95 of whom were
women, were enrolled in universities and colleges throughout the
country. There were 7,000 undergraduates, including about 630 col­
lege women enrolled as physics majors (40).
As a result of the concentration of physics teachers in schools de­
voted largely to the training of Army and Navy Keserves, women
physics majors found themselves in a peculiar position. On the one



hand, their instructors were being drawn away to teach military per­
sonnel or to engage in war research; on the other hand, they were urged
to continue their training by taking graduate work. And in the mean­
time, well-paying jobs in industry became available to women with
even limited training in physics.
Consequently in 1944 the number of women students declined along
with the decrease in male civilian enrollments. In January 1944 there
"were only 2,260 undergraduate students enrolled as physics majors,
and although women composed 20 percent of this group, their number
had dropped to 457. On the graduate level, there were only 386 stu­
dents, of whom women numbered 28 (43). As the war continued, the
number of Ph. D.’s awarded annually, which had reached an all-time
high of 191 in 1941, continued to decrease until in 1945 only 39 such
degrees were granted (34).
During the war, colleges and universities all over the country aided
m the tremendous task of training persons in the newer fields of elec­
tronics and radar. Hundreds of schools cooperated in publicizing
the tiaining available through the federally financed Engineering,
Science, and Management War Training program. During 1940-45,
some 8<0 courses in physics were given, usually for evening students,
many of whom were employed in related technical fields in which new
scientific developments made further training essential. More than
32,000 men and women attended these physics courses, which included
subjects ranging from the fundamentals of physics to highly special­
ized courses in ultra-high-frequency techniques. About two-thirds of
the students were enrolled in physics courses dealing with electricity
and magnetism, so important in the development of electrical anil
communications equipment for military use. Courses in electronics
were given as part of the electrical engineering program and were
attended by almost 60,000 students, many of whom were trained
primarily in physics (49).
The number of women taking courses in physics under the program
is not known. Although women formed approximately one-sixth of the
trainees in all Engineering, Science, and Management War Training
courses, their proportion in physics and electronics was undoubtedly
much smaller (49).
World War II has frequently been referred to as a “war of physics,”
just as the First World War was called a “war of chemistry.” There
were two or three essential jobs waiting for every newly trained
physicist as he became available, and persons trained at all levels from
high-school graduates to doctors of philosophy were urgently needed
(18) (5). In universities and colleges, in industry and Government,
the demand for men and women trained in physics far exceeded the



Strenuous efforts were made to recruit from all sources persons with
some training in physics. Scientists in related fields and those who
had originally secured their training in physics but were employed in
other work were given the opportunity to take refresher courses in
order to qualify for positions in physics. This transfer of persons
from other fields and the concentrated efforts of universities to produce
more physicists finally brought forth about double the number who had
been employed before the war.
In December 1944, almost 12,000 persons in physics voluntarily
registered with the National Roster of Scientific and Specialized
Personnel. Women formed about 4 percent of this group and, like the
men, more than half had graduate degrees (47). (See table 1.)
Table 1. Distribution by Highest Academic Degree Held of 11,615 Men and
Women Registered in Physics W ith the National Roster of Scientific and
Specialized Personnel, 1944

Highest academic degree held
Ph. D

........ ............................. ....................












2, 785
3. 227
4. 720

4, 578





Source: National Roster of Scientific and Specialized Personnel (47).

During the war, college placement officers reported an “incredible5'
demand for their graduates with courses in physics. Even girls with
only 1 year of physics were readily placed; those who had secured their
degrees in physics had many choices. One university placement
bureau, for example, which had had only one employer request for a
woman trained in physics in the academic year 1941-42, received 21
calls in 1942-43, and 19 in 1943-44. “Multiple” calls, which meant an
employer said: “I will take as many as you can provide,” became
Whereas teaching had formerly been the greatest outlet for women
physicists, during the war this field dropped to third place. Reports
from five colleges on the placement of 37 women graduated with majors
in physics between 1942 and 1945 indicated that 17 had secured jobs
in industry, 10 in Federal Government or Government-sponsored
research projects, 5 had become teachers, and 5 entered other fields.
Job transfers also were encouraged by the wartime situation. One
woman, for example, who before the war had been working as a highschool laboratory assistant while she continued her graduate train­
ing, took a position in a naval ordnance laboratory during the war.
772329°—48----- 3



Another left her job with a firm manufacturing electrical and commu­
nications equipment to go into military service, where she used her
training in physics in the highly important field of communications
intelligence. Another who secured her degree in 1943 accepted an im­
mediate appointment as a junior higli-school teacher, but later left for
a position with a firm manufacturing electrical equipment.
One of the most significant but less publicized contributions which
physicists made during the war was in the training of thousands of
students in physics. But in the summer of 1942 the National Roster
reported that over one-third of the physicists ordinarily employed in
universities and colleges had left their campuses for war-related work,
and in December of that year only 2,328 resident faculty members
remained. Among them were 178 women physicists, over 7 percent
of the total, a higher percentage than that which they formed of all
physicists (47) (40).
The needs of the Army, Navy, and Air Force specialized training
programs for full-time physics instructors were almost double the
number available. In the institutions which had been certified for
possible contract with the armed forces for the specialized training of
Reserve forces, there were 1,700 instructors in physics, and only 650
remained in other institutions that were completely devoted to the
instruction of civilian men and women. To meet the demands of the
armed forces training programs alone, it was estimated that 600 addi­
tional experienced teachers and 1,900 persons qualified for physics
laboratory duties would be needed (46).
All sources were combed for additional instructors. Universities
were asked to take inventory of their faculty members and graduate
students to discover suitable teachers and to encourage qualified
women and others permanently deferred from military service to
teach physics. Persons teaching in other fields who could transfer
to physics were encouraged to do so. Survey courses in physics and
other sciences were eliminated to enable trained teachers to concen­
trate on war-related physics training or research. In addition, local
industries and laboratories were surveyed to locate part-time teachers
The extensive use of part-time teachers was shown in a survey made
by the American Institute of Physics in the spring of 1943 which
revealed approximately 4,000 persons (exclusive of undergraduate
assistants) engaged in full- or part-time teaching of physics (8). This
number was 40 percent higher than the number of full-time resident
faculty members shown in the National Roster’s survey.
In this period, college women were given unusual opportunities to
continue their graduate work and to remain on the campus as teaching
assistants. However, the women who chose to remain in this field



during the war were those who turned down the tempting offers of
jobs at higher pay made by industry and Government. And partially
as a result of this, high-school teaching jobs, formerly sought after,
went begging during the war.
Early in the defense period, employment opportunities for physi­
cists began to change rapidly as industrial research laboratories began
hiring physicists in large numbers. In 1941, the American Institute
of Physics reported that 2,500 physicists were employed in industry,
many of whom were already working for national defense (10). Dur­
ing the war the limited supply of persons trained in physics and the
speed with which new graduates were hired by industry made the
demand for their services appear almost insatiable. Most of the
large manufacturers of electrical and communications equipment,
scientific instruments, glassware, auto and airplane parts, and others
producing chemicals greatly expanded their research laboratories and
in a few instances doubled their scientific staffs. Many industries
that had not used physicists before learned that physicists could be
practical as well as theoretical scientists and could operate under the
pressure of production planning. As it became evident that physi­
cists were especially valuable in some industries in process develop­
ment, improvement, and control, the competition for their services
increased (11).
In January 1944, a survey made by the National Roster of 18,700
industrial war establishments and 645 industrial research laboratories
indicated that 649 physicists would be needed to fill new openings in
the following 6 months. In addition, it was predicted that 335 more
physicists would be required to compensate for losses to the armed
forces and normal losses due to death and retirement (44) ■
A survey of 78 industrial research laboratories made by the Women’s
Bureau in 1945-46 revealed that women physicists were employed
during the war in 18 of these laboratories, as compared with 4 before
the war. Like men, women trained in physics were found employed
in industries manufacturing electrical and communications equipment,
machinery and transportation equipment, scientific instruments, pho­
tographic apparatus, glass and glassware, chemicals, rubber, and
Women with bachelors’ degrees in physics were working as junior
physicists assisting senior staff members in research projects. In such
positions they were responsible for setting up and operating laboratory
apparatus, carrying on simple experiments, recording and accumulat­
ing data based on their research, and assisting their supervisors in the
analysis of the data. Sometimes they were also required to do library
research on a particular problem, before laboratory investigations
' were initiated. Some women physicists were directing the work of



one or more technical laboratory assistants who were making routine
physical tests or analyses.
During the war, when many industrial research laboratories were
unable to secure fully trained scientific personnel, employers were
often forced to break jobs down into routine duties which could be
handled by persons with limited training. Frequently, in-service
training courses were given to qualify persons for specific duties as
technical assistants or engineering aids. (See Bull. 223-5, engineer­
ing aid.) College women with majors in other fields qualified for some
of these jobs, but those with courses in physics or mathematics were
especially welcome. In one large establishment manufacturing elec­
trical and communications equipment, the number of women employed
as technical assistants was four or five times the number of women
scientists employed. This pattern of occupational distribution was
the result of the wartime emergency when persons fully trained in
the sciences were at a premium.
Women with very limited knowledge of physics, sometimes not ber
yond high-school training, were also employed as laboratory assist­
ants, to give assistance to technical staff members and to perform
very routine duties. For example, in a drug manufacturing plant,
women with high-sclioo] training in chemistry, physics, and mathe­
matics were working under close supervision on routine testing, in­
volving simple mathematical calculations and an elementary knowl­
edge of physics or chemistry. In a machinery manufacturing concern,
after a brief in-service training course, women laboratory assistants
ran instruments through pressure and heat tests, being responsible
for inspecting them and tabulating the results. In a metal products
company a high-school girl, after an Engineering Science Management
War Training course in metal techniques, was taking readings on ten­
sile testing machines, doing microscopic readings and plotting the re­
sults of various tests on a 52-bar chart.
During the war the Federal Civil Service Commission was con­
stantly recruiting physicists, and women in this field were able to se­
cure positions in Government research laboratories that had formerly
never employed women physicists. In April 1943, the Commission
stated that there were not enough physicists in the country to meet the
Government needs, especially in the fields of electronics and radio,
electricity, sound, and optics. They asked that women be encouraged
to enter the field, since there were a large number of openings for
women, particularly in the lower grades (37).
Ther&is no record on the total number of women physicists employed
in the Federal Government during the war, but reports available to
the Women’s Bureau on 50 women physicists in Civil Service indicated



that the largest group was employed in the National Bureau of Stand­
ards; the others were working in Ordnance armories and arsenals
of the War Department, and in the Patent Office, the Navy Depart­
ment, and the National A-dvisory Committee for Aeronautics.
Among Federal agencies, the National Bureau of Standards lias
always employed a large number of physicists. During the war it
employed women physicists in such specialized fields as weights and
measures, optics, heat, electricity, electronics, and radio. Most of the
women, however, were employed in the lower professional grades, and
none were employed at the top professional grade. The duties of
these women, dependent upon the field in which they were working,
might include such assignments as: the determination of the capacity,
internal resistance, and voltage drop of storage batteries; the exami­
nation of photographed spectra with a microphotometer and a mi­
crometer comparator; making computations in optical design involv­
ing ray tracing; the solution of simultaneous differential equations
and the evaluation of determinants of the third order; or carrying on
investigations in theoretical physics relating to atomic nuclei.
The Bureau of Standards also employed more than 100 women in
subprofessional positions as physical science aids. More than a
fourth of these women were doing work requiring some training in
physics. Those with only high-school training were doing very rou­
tine work, but those with a year or more of college training were en­
gaged in subprofessional scientific or technical work, assisting in phys­
ical testing or analysis and making appropriate calculations. However,
their duties varied considerably according to the section in which
they were employed.
The knowledge and skills peculiar to physicists were particularly
adapted to the development of programs for National defense. Only
a few months after the Office of Scientific Research and Development
had been created, three-fourths of the outstanding physicists in the
country were declared to be heading Government-sponsored research
projects (28). According to college placement officers, there was a
great demand for women trained in physics for research projects spon­
sored by the War and Navy Departments and for those of the Office of
Scientific Research and Development, such as the Argonne Laboratory
at the University of Chicago, where fundamental research on atomic
energy v*as done, and the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, the largest radar laboratory. The women’s
military services, too, were recruiting women with science backgrounds
for training in aerology, radar, and communications work. Only a
small number of women physicists entered each of these fields, but
they made an important contribution to the war effort.



Earnings and Advancement
Before the war, entrance salaries for physicists in industry ranged
fiom $1,200 to $2,000 a year (41). In 1946, however, women physicists
employed in industrial research laboratories were reported to he earn­
ing $2,500 $3,000 a year, and a few were earning over $4,000 a year.
The earnings of college teachers vary with the income and type of
institution in which the teacher is employed, as well as with the rank
and qualifications of the individual. Before the war, the median
salaries of professors in different types of publicly controlled institu­
tions ranged from $2,900 to $5,000, and in privately controlled in­
stitutions, from $1,800 to $5,000. However, associate and assistant
professors and lecturers received less (50). In 1947 these salaries
nere undoubtedly higher, but there were no adequate statistics avail­
able to indicate what increases had taken place.
Salaries paid to high-school teachers of physics are the same as those
paid other high-school teachers and vary with the size of the city in
which the teacher is employed. Before the war, the median salary paid
to a high-school teacher in a town having a population of from 2,500
to 5,000 was $1,428 a year, but in large cities having a population over
100,000 the median salary was $2,768 a year. In 1946-47, the median
salaries of high-school teachers in comparable communities were
$2,274 and $3,593, respectively (05).
In 1940, junior physicists in the Federal Government earned $2,000
a year. During the war, with overtime, the earnings on the same job
were $2,433, and in 1947 the basic salary had risen to $2,644 a year.
In physics, as in many of the other sciences, advancement for women
has been slow. Those with graduate training have had much better
opportunities, for the Ph. D. is practically a prerequisite to advance­
ment in physics, especially in college teaching. The importance of
graduate training in this field is indicated by the fact that in 1944
more than half the men and women physicists registered with the
National Roster of Scientific and Specialized Personnel had master’s
or doctor’s degrees (47). Industrial employers, however, usually rate
women physicists more in terms of the results they can produce. They
hesitate to advance women who have not been with the company long
enough to give evidence of an active and continuing interest in physics
as a career.
The few women who have received recognition in this field have all
had their doctorates. One, for example, began her work as a research
physicist in an industrial research laboratory during the last war.
Later, she was awarded the first Ph. D. ever conferred on a woman by
Cambridge University. Her discovery of “invisible glass” has contiibuted much to the improvement of lenses in cameras, periscopes,



and optical instruments. In 1945, the American Association of Uni­
versity Women presented her with an award in recognition of dis­
tinguished achievement (©).
Because of the increasing importance of electronics and nuclear
physics, young physicists who recently completed work for their
doctorates in these fields have been able to advance very rapidly.
Since these specialties have developed only in the past two decades,
there are relatively more young scientists who have pioneered in
research in these areas.
In 1941, the American Institute of Physics estimated that 4,100
physicists were members of at least one of the national professional
societies in physics (29). In 1946, about 10,000 physicists were mem­
bers of the societies coordinated by the Institute, about half of them
members of the American Physical Society. Membership in the
American Physical Society requires only the recommendation of two
other members, but the applicant must be really interested in physics,
although not necessarily a professional physicist. The others were
members of one or more of the following: The Optical Society of
America, interested in the science of light; the Acoustical Society of
America, devoted to the science of sound; the Society of Rheology,
for the advancement of knowledge concerning the deformation and
How of matter; and the American Association of Physics Teachers.
There are women physicists in each of these organizations, their
numbers in 1946 ranging from about 2 to 4 percent of the membership
in the different societies. (See p. 6—29 for membership requirements
in the American Association of Physics Teachers.)
The Outlook
The effective role played by physicists in applied research during
the war and the present undersupply of persons trained in physics
promise a favorable outlook for women in physics for the next few
years. The increased use of physical methods in industrial research,
the renewed interest of governmental and other research agencies in
fundamental scientific investigation, and the growing recognition of
the importance of a basic knowledge of physics to all scientists have
increased the demand for physicists in all fields, as compared with
that existing before World War II.
However, this demand is primarily for those with graduate training.
In fact, the shortage of physicists with graduate training, occasioned
by the war, is expected to continue for a number of years. Tlie newer
industrial demand for physicists is also expected to create a deficit



in the number of persons trained at the master’s and doctor’s levels.
In 1945 a deficit of 2,000 physicists at the doctorate level in 1955 was
predicted {52). But in view of the increased number of students
preparing for the Ph. D. subsequent to the war, under the benefits
of the GI bill and the Predoctoral Fellowship program of the National
Research Council, or through the aid of part-time jobs in Governmentfinanced research projects at universities, this estimate appears to be
high. Two years after the war had ended, women with Ph. D.’s in
physics were still being sought by universities and government re­
search laboratories. Of the women Ph. D.’s employed in industrial
establishments covered in the present study, all were retained during
the reconversion period.
But the extraordinary need for women with a minimum amount
of work in physics, caused by the wartime emergency, has terminated,
according to reports from college placement bureaus and departments
of physics. College women with only the bachelor’s degree no longer
have a wide choice of jobs. In some instances, such women who were
employed in establishments that were operating under wartime Gov­
ernment contracts have been released. Nevertheless, the small number
of women graduating with these degrees in 1946 were being placed.
Statistics furnished the Women’s Bureau by nine of the colleges
and universities which regularly graduate women with degrees in
physics indicate that more women were enrolled in this field in 1945
and 1946 than there were during the war. But the number is still very
small. In these schools there were only 50 to 60 women enrolled as
physics majors in each of the years 1945 and 1946. Nevertheless, this
was about twice the prewar number. Apparently there has been a
general increase in interest in physics on the part of both college and
high-school students. During the war, when the total enrollments
of all high-school students showed a decrease, the number of boys
and girls enrolled in physics increased more than 10 percent (9). It
is too early to predict whether or not this trend will continue.
The increased postwar demand for women physicists appears to be
following the prewar pattern, since teaching again ranks first as an
outlet for women in physics. As a result of increased enrollments of
students in physics the demand for physics teachers is expected to
remain high. At the close of the war, college teaching staffs had to
be reorganized to accommodate the increased numbers of students,
and many openings for physics instructors were created. Although
women with graduate training in physics are currently in demand as
research and teaching assistants, by 1950 they will face greater com­
petition from men veterans who are preferred by some institutions
of higher education. It is likely that qualifications for such positions
will be restored to prewar standards; women physicists who plan to



Courtesy Purdue University

Figure 2.—A faculty member of the Purdue University
Department of Physics
teach will need more thorough training than the men with whom they
must compete.
The increased demand for women trained in physics in colleges and
universities was reflected in a count made in 1947 of women physics
faculty members listed in the catalogs of institutions of higher educa­
tion included in a sample of such institutions selected on the basis
of enrollments by the United States Office of Education. There were
86 women on physics faculties in the 330 institutions included in the
sample. Seventy of them were teaching physics only, and 16 taught
another science as well, such as astronomy, chemistry, or mathematics.
Undoubtedly a few of these women were on temporary teaching
appointments, since they held such titles as those of temporary in­
structor, acting instructor, and teaching fellow. A large number
were listed as assistants, research assistants, or graduate assistants
and may have been devoting time to research as well as to teaching.
There were 22 women, however, more than one-fourth of the total,
who held professorship appointments. The importance of the Ph. D.
in college teaching is indicated by the fact that more than two-thirds
of the women professors held the doctorate.
If these schools are representative of all institutions of higher
education, there were about 347 women teaching physics only in addi­
tion to about 93 who combined instruction in physics with that in



another science. More than 40 percent were employed by colleges of
liberal arts and science, and about 30 percent by publicly and privately
controlled universities. The remainder were in technological and pro­
fessional schools, teachers’ colleges, and junior colleges.
As a result of the emphasis on science during the war, the enrollment
of high-school students in physical science courses is expected to re­
main high. The proportion of women teaching physics in secondary
schools in 1947 was probably greater than it had ever been, and op­
portunities were expected to increase. In many high schools there has
been a general trend away from the formal college preparatory courses
in physics and chemistry (where men teachers have been preferred),
toward courses in applied science of general interest. In some of these
newer courses, such as consumer science, laboratory techniques, the
science of photography, and general physical science, there appears to
be more opportunity for women. Those women who combine a minor
in chemistry or mathematics with their major in physics will be better
able to meet the demands of high-school teaching, since they will
almost always be called upon to teach several subjects, except in un­
usually large schools.
In 1946, the National Research Council reported that 2,660 physicists
were employed in industrial research laboratories in the United States,
as compared to 2,030 in 1940. However, this is still only about oneeighth the number of chemists so employed (;27). But with the
application of new principles and methods to practical problems, the
number of physicists in industrial research is expected to increase.
Physical tools like X-ray diffraction, electron diffraction, the electron
microscope, and modern spectroscopy are being applied to biological,
chemical, and geological problems encountered in industry (23).
Physicists with their broad knowledge of principles and methods are
being called upon more and more to solve the practical problems that
arise in the production of electrical and communications equipment,
optical and other scientific instruments, glassware, petroleum, chemi­
cal, and many other products. The long-range trend seems to be
toward more physicists in industrial research.
In the period immediately following the war, some of the women
physicists employed in industrial manufacturing establishments were
adversely affected by the reconversion to peacetime production. How­
ever, among the 78 firms with industrial research laboratories sur­
veyed by the Women’s Bureau in 1945-46, women trained in physics
were still employed in 17 of the 18 laboratories which had employed
them in wartime. Separate statistics on physicists were not available
from all of the 17 laboratories, but in 7 of them, 38 women were classi­
fied as junior physicists or research physicists. A number of other
women trained in physics and mathematics were employed under other



titles, such as those of research assistant, aerodynamicist, technical
assistant, and patent research assistant. For example, one woman
who had her bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics, and was
working toward her master’s degree in physics, was employed as a
junior professional engineer. She was engaged in research in a corpo­
ration manufacturing radio parts and was making investigations on
impulse communications. Two others with a degree in physics were
employed as technical librarians.
Besides the 38 women identified as physicists there were about 475
women, most of whom held degrees in chemistry, physics, and mathe­
matics, employed as staff members in 13 of the 17 laboratories, together
with 375 women science majors working as engineering assistants, and
more than 100 women with high-school training in physics, mathe­
matics, and chemistry, hired as laboratory assistants and scientific
Future opportunities for women trained in science differ from
laboratory to laboratory. A few employers indicated that as women
with a minimum of training left, they would be replaced by men. One
industrial concern which had doubled its laboratory staff during the
war planned to return to its prewar size and to release many tech­
nical and laboratory assistants. Another reported a need for more en­
gineering and technical aids, and women with some training in physics
were wanted as technical librarians, editorial assistants, and secre­
taries by another. In general, industrial employers are no longer ac­
tively seeking women physicists, but women trained in physics can
still secure good positions in industry. The situation can be expressed
in the comment of one industrial research laboratory director who
stated, “We are not recruiting, but we can use a woman with a B. S. in
In 1947, the Civil Service Commission reported that women physi­
cists were in demand in almost all science laboratories maintained by
the Federal Government. The need has continued, especially in radar,
electronics, and nuclear physics.
Although some wartime research activities were completed, others
have been begun. Most of the peacetime research agencies, like the
National Bureau of Standards and the National Advisory Committee
for Aeronautics, were returning to problems of fundamental scientific
research abandoned during the war.
At least 61 women physicists were employed in the Federal Govern­
ment in 1946, according to reports obtained by the Women’s Bureau
from the principal agencies employing physicists. Forty-six of them
wTere employed by the National Bureau of Standards in Washington,
D. C. Other Federal employers included the Bureau of Ordnance and
the Office of Research and Inventions of the Navy Department, the



Ordnance Department of the War Department, the United States
Patent Office, the Atomic Energy Commission at Oak Ridge, and the
National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
Some of the women employed as physicists during the war were
barely qualified; it is possible that a few may not be able to qualify for
permanent appointments. In the future, qualifications for physicists
in the Federal Government may be raised, but, in 1947, 24 semester
hours in physics was required for probational appointments at the be­
ginning professional level. Women with these requirements and a
bachelor’s degree in physics were eligible for appointment. (See
p. 6-28 for requirements for application.)
Finally, there is the area of pure research in which the especially
gifted woman physicist may make important contributions in the
future. During the war little progress was made in answering some
of the fundamental problems of the science of physics. The applied
research that was done added little to the understanding of natural
phenomena, although the technological applications of nuclear physics
have already produced the atomic bomb (30). Opportunities for pure
research will be available mainly in university and Government re­
search laboratories, research foundations, and in a few of the large
industrial research laboratories which engage in pure research as well
as in applied and developmental work.
The application of the principles of physics to other physical
sciences, as in physical chemistry, geophysics, and astrophysics, for the
solution of basic problems is rapidly gaining headway. In biology
and medicine too, physical equipment and techniques applicable to
biological and biochemical problems are receiving greater emphasis
in the expansion of biophysics research programs (7). The interest
of women in biophysics and the relative lack of prejudice against them
in this field combine to make it a promising field for women physicists
interested in research. Recent discoveries in these fields and the
advances that physicists have made in an understanding of the nature
of the atomic nucleus suggest that the men and women physicists of
the future are within reach of a satisfactory understanding of the
fundamental laws governing the nature of matter and energy (’ 3).
Despite the need for training thousands of physicists in the next
decade, only women with superior mathematical and scientific abilities
should be encouraged to enter this field. Some of the qualifications
which women physicists deem especially important in potential physi­
cists are a scientific curiosity and an independence of spirit, com­
bined with a willingness to try new things and the ability to persist
in the solution of a problem, even in the face of possible failure.
Girls who wish to become physicists should begin to prepare them­
selves in high school, particularly in basic mathematics, and should



start the study of French and German as soon as possible. Their
undergraduate courses in college should give them extensive expe­
rience with laboratory procedures and develop their ability to nse
mathematics, both in expressing theory and in solving problems. The
training of the professional physicist should be planned to develop
scientists rather than technicians. It should be broad and funda­
mental and directed toward preparation in a field of work, rather
than toward a specific job, for the opportunities which arise in the
new developments of the science require the ability to turn the older
theories and applications to new uses.
The selection of a specialized field of physics for advanced study and
graduate work should be determined by the general vocational objec­
tives of the student. The woman who is interested in developmental
research in industry will find that, in addition to a fundamental knowl­
edge of the principles of physics, courses in physical chemistry, metal­
lurgy, and electrical engineering will be helpful and should be supple­
mented by a thorough grounding in the use of scientific instruments
{16). Ho-wever, the woman who is interested in teaching and pure
research might select more courses devoted to the theory of physics.
No matter which fields are selected, women physicists whose educa­
tional background and training have been carefully planned will find
opportunity for a growing part in the Nation’s life (H).

Astronomy and Astrophysics as Defined in a Revision of the
Occupational Summary of the National Roster of Scientific
and Specialized Personnel (43)
Astronomers are primarily concerned with the study of the heav­
enly bodies, their sizes, masses, shapes, positions, distances, motions,
and orbits. Astronomers observe the celestial bodies with telescopes
equipped with cameras', photometers, micrometers, and various other
optical devices. With the aid of mathematics they determine the posi­
tions of the stars and planets, calculate orbits of comets, asteroids, etc.,
and make statistical studies of stars and galaxies. They prepare math­
ematical tables giving the positions of the sun, moon, planets, and
stars at a given time; including the almanacs used by the air or marine
navigator to locate his position on land or sea.
At the present time, astrophysics plays a prominent part in the
programs of most astronomical institutions. It deals with the study
of the temperatures, luminosities, chemical composition, and internal
structure of the stars and other celestial objects. For this work, tele­
scopes are equipped with spectroscopes, photometers, bolometers, and
in general with instruments that record the radiation received from the
objects under investigation. The interpretation of these data requires
training in physics as well as in mathematics.


Courtesy U. S. Naval Observatory

Figure 3-—An astronomer at the U. S. Naval Observatory adjusting the
Photographic Zenith Telescope, which is used in determining time
by the stars.

The number of astronomers has always been small, but their contri­
bution to the knowledge of science and the universe has been great.
The outstanding work of a few American women who pioneered in
this field has eased the entrance of the women who followed. In
1945, 102 of the 600 members of the American Astronomical Society
were women. This proportion, 17 percent, approximates that of
women in the field itself and is high compared to the proportion
that women comprise in the other physical sciences. In the field of
mathematics, for example, women in 1944 were 13 percent of the
total, in physics, only 4 percent, whereas they were 17 percent of all
Prewar Distribution
Before the war most astronomers worked in universities or in re­
search foundations which maintained astronomical observatories.
For instance, in 1940, half of the 68 astronomers who had received
their Ph. D.’s in the preceding decade were engaged in teaching or
combined teaching with research. Two-fifths were engaged in research
alone {21).
If an astronomical observatory is defined as a building designed
or adapted to house a telescope permanently mounted, there were 273
observatories in the United States in 1945, located in 42 States and
the District of Columbia {32). But most of the astronomers were
employed in a few large observatories that are either connected with a
university or identified exclusively with research programs, like the
Harvard, Lick, Yerkes, McDonald Observatories, and the Mount Wil­
son Observatory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Some
astronomers were employed by the Federal Government in the United
States Naval Observatory and in the Astrophysical Observatory of
the Smithsonian Institution. These observatories and the universi­
ties which before the war offered graduate training in astronomy
were the principal employers of astronomers. A few were also em­
ployed as curators of astronomy and lecturers in the five planetaria
in the United States located at Chicago, New York, Philadelphia,
Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh.
For women who had secured an advanced degree in astronomy or
astrophysics, teaching at the college level provided one outlet. Such
openings were few in number, however, and were largely concentrated
in those women’s colleges in the East which had departments of as­
tronomy. Some women highly trained in astronomy were also en­




gaged in original research. For example, a woman was on the staff of
the Harvard College Observatory with the full rank of astronomer,
and another was a research associate in spectroscopy at Princeton.
However, more of the women held positions as computers or as
research assistants at observatories. Depending upon the research
program and staff at a particular observatory, a computer made
measurements on astronomical photographs or spectrograms or com­
puted tables of observations for analysis by an astronomer. In some
of the smaller observatories computers determined the orbits of
comets or minor planets and predicted eclipses. In addition to such
duties a research assistant, with a greater degree of responsibility,
participated in some phase of the observatory’s research program,
working as part of a team in the usually congenial and often exciting
atmosphere of an observatory. These jobs customarily required un­
dergraduate training in mathematics or astronomy. Since this work
at the astronomical observatories that are connected with universities
was often done by graduate students, openings were rare except in
the larger observatories, such as the Harvard College Observatory in
Cambridge, and the Mount Wilson Observatory in California, both of
which were engaged in extensive research programs.
At least two of the five planetaria in the United States employed
one or more women astronomers as lecturers, and a woman was in
charge of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.
Annual Addition to the Supply
Before the war few women were graduated with a bachelor’s degree
in astronomy. College women were not encouraged to major in this
science unless they had an unusually strong interest and sufficient
financial resources to carry them through for a number of years. In
the women’s colleges offering a major in this science as well as in
most State universities and other coeducational institutions with de­
partments of astronomy, there were often years in which no degrees
were granted in astronomy to women. With few exceptions, there
was only one woman or at most two women who were given degrees in
astronomy in any one year. Occasionally a woman with an under­
graduate degree in mathematics or physics chose to do her graduate
work in astronomy. But in the years before the war, doctorates in
astronomy were rare, an annual average of only eight doctorate de­
grees having been awarded to men and women combined (52). Prob­
ably less than 10 women received the doctorate in astronomy in the
decade preceding the war.
Although there were few entering the field, there were also few
leaving it. Astronomers were reported to have a very high rate of



| Sgag L

Courtesy Science Service, Inc.

Figure 4.—Student assistants in astronomy “manning” a telescope at
the Oak Ridge Station of the Harvard College Observatory.
longevity, second only to that of ministers (19); and losses due to
retirement were thought to be very low. In spite of relatively low
salaries, women, like the men, appeared to gain satisfaction from the
contribution they were making to the advancement of their science
and to find their working environment pleasant.
Wartime Changes
The war had little immediate effect upon the supply of women with
undergraduate degrees in astronomy, according to reports available
to the Women’s Bureau on degrees granted in astronomy to women
over a period of years at eight colleges and universities. It is likely,
although no statistics are available as proof, that very few men
obtained undergraduate degrees in this field during the war period.
At the doctorate level, the prewar annual average of eight Ph. D.’s



awarded to men and women was also maintained until 1945 when only
two women, and no men, received a doctor’s degree in astronomy
(20) (34).
During the years of the war, fundamental research in astronomy con­
tinued to advance, although there was no marked expansion deriving
directly from military needs, as there was in some of the other sciences.
In the applied field, however, astronomers helped to solve some of
the problems of air navigation by adapting their findings from two
fundamentally stellar problems, direction and time (15).
Because they necessarily have a good background in mathematics
and physics, some women astronomers transferred during the war to
work in these related fields where the shortage of technically trained
persons became acute. Opportunities for such employment developed
in industrial research laboratories where astronomers found that they
could continue research usually in closely allied fields. A number of
women who had been employed as computers or research assistants in
the observatories and a few who had been teaching transferred to
research jobs of this sort.
Women trained in astronomy also found opportunity for mathe­
matical and physical research in Government-sponsored research pro­
grams, such as that carried on at the Massachusetts Institute of Tech­
nology. A few who were willing to take additional specialized train­
ing transferred to meteorology. As young men were drafted into the
armed services, the few highly desirable university assistant jobs in
the teaching of astronomy and in research became available to women
with advanced degrees.
The war need for instructors to teach mathematics and such techni­
cal subjects as navigation to military personnel attracted persons
trained in astronomy to these related fields. In some instances naviga­
tion was actually taught at a planetarium, the facilities of which were
ideal for this purpose.
In May 1945, of the 102 women who were members of the American
Astronomical Society, almost two-thirds were research workers; only
one-sixth were primarily teachers, as compared with one-fourth of the
men. The larger proportion of men teaching in colleges and uni­
versities indicated by these statistics is directly related to the larger
proportion of men with Ph. I).is. Of the 346 voluntary registrants
in astronomy listed by the National Roster of Scientific and Specialized
Personnel in 1946, 56 percent of the men held the Ph. D. degree, com­
pared with only 38 percent of the women (39). (See table 2.)
It is difficult, however, to separate teaching from research in astron­
omy, since most observatories are connected with colleges or universi­
ties, and staff members are likely to engage in both teaching and



Table 2. Distribution by Highest Academic Degree Held of 346 Men and Women
Registered in Astronomy With the National Roster of Scientific and Specialized
Personnel, 1946

Highest academic degree held
Total........ .......................-................-Ph. D_____________________ ________--Bachelor’s------------ ---------------------------Others____________ _____ ____ .--------------
















Source: National Boster of Scientific and Specialized Personnel (39).

Earnings, Hours, and Advancement
Before the war an important factor affecting the earnings of as­
tronomers was their lack of employment in industry. Consequently
the institutions of higher education and research, which were the
principal employers of astronomers, competed only among themselves
for the services of qualified personnel. A professor of astronomy,
therefore, was likely to receive a lower salary than that of a professor
of chemistry working on the same campus, who might more easily
find employment in industry. The war changed this somewhat by in­
creasing the industrial demand for mathematical and physical re­
search jobs for which many astronomers could qualify. But, as one
woman astronomer stated, “Astronomers must love their work, they
are so poorly paid for it.”
In 1947 assistant teaching jobs in women’s colleges began at about
$1,300 to $1,400 a year. Salaries for full professors of astronomy
in women’s colleges seldom go beyond $5,000 a year, although the in­
come of astronomers teaching in coeducational institutions may be
somewhat higher.
In 1947 the Federal Government paid junior astronomers $2,644
a year, compared with $2,000 in 1940.
Although no studies are available on the earnings of computers in
observatories, before the war such computers often earned from $1,000
to $1,200 a year. Salaries during the war were raised to over $2,000
a year, some approaching $2,500. Some women preferred to remain
at these jobs during the war, in spite of the opportunity to earn more
elsewhere; others, however, transferred at much higher salaries to
computing jobs in industry, at which some have preferred to remain.
(See Bull. 223-4, on Mathematics.)
The hours of astronomers are determined by the particular type of
scientific investigations they are pursuing. Teachers have rather long
but fairly regular hours. Each week they may have several laboratory
periods scheduled which may last until midnight. Women working



as computers or as research or editorial assistants usually have regular
office hours. But astronomers who are making direct telescopic ob­
servations at an observatory may work during a part of each clear
night for a given period or all night long on a number of good
nights (24,).
Advancement for women as well as for men astronomers seems to
depend upon their opportunities for long periods of graduate work and
original research. For example, the woman astronomer now on the
staff of the Harvard College Observatory received her doctorate in
astrophysics. She later was one of seven persons to receive a fellow­
ship in astronomy from the National Research Council to carry on
further research in her field {28). She is noted for her books on
“Stellar Atmospheres” and “The Stars of High Luminosity,” as well
as for many other studies.
In general, the preference in most observatories and universities for
men tends to retard the promotion of women in astronomy. Recog­
nition as a scientist is often more readily achieved by women astron­
omers than is promotion in position and salary.
The advancement of a science in which so few people are engaged
depends relatively more upon the contributions and publications of a
professional society Ilian do other sciences that receive more aid from
industry, Government, and research foundations. This important
function is fulfilled by the American Astronomical Society, which was
organized by a conference of astronomers and physicists meeting at
the Yerkes Observatory at Williams Bay, Wis., in 1899 (6). (See
p. 6-29 for requirements for membership.) In 1945 the society had
about 600 members, of whom 102 were women, some of whom have
served as members of its council or have represented the society on in­
ternational committees. Not oftener than every 3 years the society
awards a prize to a woman for distinguished work in astronomy, in
honor of Annie Jump Cannon, formerly curator of astronomical
photographs at Harvard, who was noted for her extensive work on the
classification of stellar spectra (26).
In the West an active organization including both amateur and
professional astronomers is the Astronomical Society of the Pacific,
which was founded in 1889 (1) (26). In 1946 it had over 800
The Outlook
Although a smaller proportion of the women than of the men
astronomers have been engaged primarily in teaching, the postwar
shortage of teachers trained in astronomy and in the related subjects



of mathematics and physics provides a better-than-usual chance for
women with graduate degrees in astronomy to secure college teaching
appointments. However, appointments to teach astronomy exclusively
remain fairly limited in number, since only 26 colleges and universities
offer graduate work in astronomy (38), and courses and enrollments
in astronomy are relatively few in the other institutions offering work
leading to no higher than the bachelor’s degree (36). Opportunities
for women will continue to be best in women’s colleges and in the larger
coeducational institutions.
In 1947,17 women teachers of astronomy were listed in the catalogs
of 330 institutions of higher education (comprising a United States
Office of Education sample of enrollment in the 1,749 institutions of
this type in the United States). Eleven of the women were teaching
astronomy only, and 6 were teaching astronomy and an additional
subject, such as physics. These 17 women, three-fourths of whom
held graduate degrees, were in positions ranging from that of assist­
ant to that of full professor. Of the 4 women serving as professors
or assistant professors, 3 held the Ph. D. If this sample of schools
is as representative of the employment of women astronomers in all
institutions of higher education as it is of enrollment, there were about
86 women in all colleges and universities in the United States who were
teaching astronomy exclusively or in combination with another subject.
Sixty-four of them were teaching astronomy only, about two-thirds of
whom were in schools of liberal arts and science, a classification under
which most of the women’s colleges are found. The 22 women teaching
astronomy and physics or other subjects were found largely in public
and privately controlled universities. Obviously, some of these
teachers may be primarily physicists or mathematicians rather than
astronomers, and some may combine research with teaching. How­
ever, this sample study indicates that both the number and the pro­
portion of women astronomers engaged in teaching has risen consider­
ably above those indicated by the distribution of the women members
of the American Astronomical Society in 1945.
Research work, mainly in connection with observatories, which
employed almost two-thirds1 of the women astronomers in 1945, will
continue, nevertheless, to be the principal type of employment of
women astronomers. Only a few outstanding women, however, are
likely to reach the full rank of astronomer on observatory staffs. A
few observatories have never permitted women to make independent
observations, and until World War II women had not been allowed
to do night observing with the telescope at the Naval Observatory.
Iliis still holds true at some other locations and naturally retards
women’s opportunities for advancement, In the lower ranks of re­
search associates and assistants, however, women with graduate train­



ing will continue to contribute to astronomical and astrophysical
For women with the bachelor’s degree in astronomy, there will con­
tinue to be a few openings' in observatories as computers. In 1946
Harvard employed 18 women, and Mount Wilson employed about 10
women, most of them as computers or research assistants. It is un­
likely that such positions for women will increase in number in these
or in other observatories.
Normal turn-over of staff will from time to time provide a very
few openings for women in the Federal Civil Service. Three women
astronomers were employed at the United States Naval Observatory
in 1947 out of a total staff of about 40. One outstanding woman astro­
physicist is at present on the staff of the National Bureau of Standards.
The United States Civil Service Commission in 1947 outlined the re­
quirements for application for examination as junior astronomer.
(See p. 6-28f. for requirements for application.)
The already large and expanding popular interest in astronomy will
provide a gradually increasing number of jobs for women trained in
this field. Of the 20 women members of the American Astronomical
Society not engaged in research or teaching in 1945, a number were
employed as lecturers, editors, or writers.
In the future there will probably be a few more openings in plane­
taria for women lecturers, several of whom were employed in 1947
in the five planetaria of the United States, the first one of which was
built as recently as 1930. Some training in astronomy and sufficient
mechanical ability to operate the projector, combined with poise and a
good speaking voice, are required of those who popularize astronomy
in planetarium demonstrations. The popularization of astronomy in
books and magazines also affords some opportunity to women with
training in astronomy and writing facility. A woman astronomer, for
example, is part-owner and part-manager of the largest magazine for
amateur astronomers, a group already large and constantly growing.
Women editorial assistants are also needed from time to time to assist
with technical periodicals and reports in the field of astronomy.
The college, woman who takes undergraduate work in astronomy
will find that it contributes to her understanding of the universe more
than does any one of the other sciences. But the woman interested in
making astronomy her life’s work should realize at the outset that the
Ph. D. is virtually a prerequisite for full recognition as an astronomer.
(See p. 6-29 for list of institutions awarding the Ph. D. in astron­
omy.) For teaching and research in astronomy and astrophysics, she
will need excellent ability as well as1 thorough training in mathematics
and physics, in addition to a reading knowledge of French and Ger­
man. According to one outstanding woman astrophysicist, the



prospective astronomer must also acquire a respect for scientific instru­
ments, habitual accuracy in handling figures as well as observations,
and the ability to do sustained routine work whenever necessary.
A deep interest in astronomical phenomena must be combined with
long years of exacting study to achieve success in this field. In astron­
omy and astrophysics the satisfaction of contributing to the knowledge
of the universe must be relied upon to supply an even greater propor­
tion of the compensation to those who engage in it than it does in other
scientific fields. But the enthusiasm characteristic of the women in
this field is evidence that such satisfaction is to be found in astronomy.

Minimum Education and Experience Requirements for Application for
Beginning Federal Civil Service Position as Junior Professional
Assistant With Option as Physicist ($2,644 a year)
(As taken from Civil Service Announcement No. 75, issued October 14, 1947,
closed November 4,194711

Applicants must have successfully completed one of the following:
A. A full 4-year course in a college or university of recognized
standing, leading to a bachelor’s degree in physics. This study must
have included courses in physics consisting of lectures, recitations, and
appropriate practical laboratory work totaling at least 24 semester
hours; or
B. Courses in physics in a college or university of recognized stand­
ing, consisting of lectures, recitations, and appropriate practical lab­
oratory work totaling at least 24 semester hours; plus additional prac­
tical laboratory experience or education which when combined with
the 24 semester hours in physics will total 4 years of education and
experience and give the applicant the substantial equivalent of the
4-year college course.
In either A or B above the courses must have included a funda­
mental course in general physics and in addition any two of the fol­
lowing: (a) Electricity and magnetism, (b) heat, (c) light, (d)
mechanics, (e) modern physics, (/) sound.
Minimum Education and Experience Requirements for Application for
Beginning Federal Civil Service Position as Junior Professional
Assistant With Option as Astronomer ($2,644 a year)
(As taken from Civil Service Announcement No. 75, issued October 14, 1947,
closed November 4,1947 )1

Applicants must have successfully completed one of the following:
A. A full 4-year course in a college or university of recognized
standing, leading to a bachelor’s degree in astronomy. This study
must have included courses in astronomy consisting of lectures, recita­
tions, and appropriate practical laboratory work totaling at least 12
semester hours, and courses in mathematics totaling at least 18 semes­
ter hours, including differential and integral calculus; or
B. Four years of successful and progressive technical astronomical
experience of such a nature as to enable them to perform successfully
1For more complete and later information, consult latest announcements of the Civil
Service Commission posted in first- and second-class post offices.




at the professional level. This experience must have demonstrated
that the applicant has acquired a thorough knowledge of the scientific
principles of astronomy and their application and a good understand­
ing of mathematics including differential and integral calculus. The
experience must also show that the applicant possesses an understand­
ing of the field of astronomy equivalent to that which would have been
acquired through the successful completion of a full 4-year course in a
college or university of recognized standing, including at least 12
semester hours in astronomy and 18 semester hours in mathematics; or
C. Any time-equivalent combination of A and B. In combining
education and experience, the applicant must show for each year of
education for which credit is claimed an average of at least 3 semester
hours in astronomy and 4.5 semester hours of study in mathematics.
Minimum Requirements for Membership in the American Association
of Physics Teachers (3)
Membership is open to teachers of physics in institutions of collegi­
ate grade and to secondary-school teachers having professional quali­
fications equivalent to those required of teachers of college physics.
College and university students with a major in physics may be elected
to junior membership. Application for membership or junior mem­
bership must have the endorsement in writing of two members of the
Minimum Requirements for Membership in the American
Astronomical Society
“Any person deemed capable of preparing an acceptable paper upon
some subject of astronomy or related branch of science may be elected
by the council to membership in the society upon nomination by two or
more members of the society.”
List of Colleges and Universities Offering the Ph. D. in Astronomy (38)
Columbia University
Cornell University
Harvard University1
Princeton University1
Radcliffe College
Washington University
Yale University

University of California
University of Chicago
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
University of Pennsylvania
University of Virginia
University of Wisconsin

1 Does not grant the Ph. D. in astronomy to women.

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