VAL´KOVA Ol´ga A., Shturmuia tsitadel´ nauki. Zhenshchiny-uchenye Rossiiskoi imperii [Storming the citadel of science: Women scientists in the Russian Empire], Moscou: NLO, 2019.
The article reviews a recently published book by Olga Valkova devoted to the history of women who took part in scientific research in imperial Russia from the 19th century to the early 20th century. By working within the conceptual frameworks of social history and of science and gender history, Olga Valkova reconstructs the biographies of women who have been overlooked in the mainstream history of science in Russia. In this way the book presents collective portraits of several generations of women in science and it shows a number of different strategies they employed for establishing their credibility in this sphere. The monograph considerably expands the chronological framework of the period within which women made a contribution to scientific research in the Russian empire. While for the 18th century historians can still name only a handful of exceptional cases, Olga Valkova has been able to build up a detailed evidentiary basis to claim that by the 1790s–1810s Russian women had made themselves quite visible among the intellectual elites interested in scientific pursuits. By analysing the education of young noble women in the 1800s–1850s, Valkova has been able to demonstrate that their home education was quite conducive for inspiring an interest in sciences, while their educational background was no different from the background of their male siblings. A few chapters of the book focus on those women naturalists who amassed valuable scientific collections or who attended public lectures on scientific issues in the first half of the 19th century. Valkova considers the 1850s as the period when women in Russia made their entry into the field of professional scientific research. She examines the legal framework that hindered women’s careers in science. A few sections of the monograph examine women’s presence in Russian learned societies and the position of women in science in the Russian empire from the late 1890s until 1917. The very last section of the book analyses women’s participation in the Congresses of Russian Naturalists and Physicians. The reviewers welcome this book as a pioneering study on women in science. At the same time, they stress the need for further research on the very process of professionalization of scientific research in the country and the history of such basic concepts as ‘science’ and ‘scientist’ in Russian.