History of Physics

Isabelle Stone: breaking the glass ceiling with thin films and teaching

Applied Physics Graduate Program, RICE UNIVERSITY (HOUSTON, TX)

M.E. Bonomo

Dr. Isabelle Stone is listed as one of over four thousand American Men of Science in the inaugural bibliographical directory published in 1906. At the time of the directory’s publication, Stone was a physics professor at Vassar College for women in Poughkeepsie, NY. Stone forged ahead in a men’s profession, having been credited as the first woman in the United States to obtain a Ph.D. in physics, one of two women founders of the American Physical Society, and one of two women to attend the first International Congress of Physics. Her story is that of an unmarried, educated woman doing scientific research, living and working abroad in Italy, and providing educational stepping stones for more women to go to college in the early 1900’s.

It starts with the electric resistance of thin films in Chicago and becomes a journey in teaching women up and down the east coast, across the Atlantic, and back again.

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