History Girls

Anna Atkins, original name Anna Children (born March 16, 1799, Tonbridge, Kent, Eng.—died June 9, 1871, Halstead Place, Kent), English photographer noted for her early use of photography for scientific purposes.

Anna Children, whose mother died soon after she was born, was involved from an early age in the scientific activities that occupied her father, John George Children. A respected scientist, he was secretary of the Royal Society and was associated with the British Museum.

While in her early 20s, Atkins made drawings for her father’s translation of Jean-Baptiste de Monet Lamarck’s Genera of Shells (1823), but her prime interest lay in the study of botany. She married John Pelly Atkins in 1825. Through her father’s association with Royal Society members William Henry Fox Talbot and the astronomer and chemist Sir John Herschel, Atkins learned of the photographic process then being invented.

Read More:womenshistorymagazine.com


Women’s Rights and Economic Development

If women in developing countries are given control over their resources and given credit for the work they do, they will not need the security that having so many children brings. Instead they will have a credible social status and control over their education, employment, and family size.

When women have an equal share in earnings, independence, and freedom, they can live peacefully with men and will have fewer children by choice without being limited directly in their reproduction rates. Finally, the children they do have will hopefully be formally educated so that they too will have choices in their life and will not be restricted by their social status.

This type of change will not only require a change in the status of women, but also in the economic development of these countries. If the economy is given the opportunity to develop, couples will earn money and be able to bring their families out of poverty. This will then give them the ability to develop social status through the goods they possess rather than the number of children they have. This is what Mary Douglas refers to as “oysters and champagne.”

Acquiring status is a major goal of all humans as seen in all social mammals. Whether this status is gained by having a BMW or by having six or seven children depends on the type of society one lives in and the resources that are available. By giving developing countries the opportunity to industrialize and improve their economies, we are not only increasing jobs and decreasing poverty, but also decreasing the fertility rate.

People will have a choice in using some of their resources to acquire goods, leaving a smaller amount for the raising of children. In this way, people may “willingly give up having some babies so that they can afford washing machines and motor cars”.


A major way that economic development can begin is in the formal education of both men and women in impoverished nations. Education in schools will give way to knowledge that can help people improve their cities and villages economically which will lead to a life where children are not needed for status and financial support.

In addition, the education of girls about what large families are doing to the world population and how it can be controlled with contraception will decrease the fertility rate. When women are educated, there is an additional benefit in that they too will want to hold jobs.

When women have jobs, this also leads to less children. In countries where no women are enrolled in secondary education, the average woman has seven children, but where 40 per cent of all women have had a secondary education the average drops to three children. Once again, status can be gained through a means other than the number of children one has, this time by holding a job.

Birth Control

When couples are given the opportunity to see how their large families are affecting resources and the environment around the world, we can begin to solve our problem by increasing the availability of birth control. This is a much more immediate solution, however it will only work if the couples want to use it.

This means that the motivation for having large families must be diminished. If methods of contraception as well as education in terms of family planning are given to men and women in impoverished countries, then the number of children in each family should decrease.

In addition, both education about the population problem and an increase in women in the work force will cause women to wait longer to have children. This can also be helpful because “like smaller families, such delays in first births exert a powerful brake on population momentum by lengthening the time span between generations”

Source: umich.edu  
Image Source

Women’s History Magazine

{June 10, 2010}   What is Love?

The multifaceted nature of love poses a challenge when attempting to define or even study ‘love.’ This challenge was echoed in both our online and class conversations. There are many different definitions love in the dictionary, in research articles, and in our discussion about the topic.

Love can be companionate or romantic in nature. We can possess love for our friends, family, and romantic partners. In different cultures and countries, love may exist in different forms as well. Love can be thought of as an emotion or a collection of different emotions. Is love a state of mind or a state of being or both? Based on our discussions, the phenomenon of love may be generated by biological, genetic, emotional, social, evolutionary, and social factors.

During our discussion, many people echoed that love is universal but is also extremely subjective and personal, which is an inherent contradiction within love itself that makes creating a definition for ‘love’ even more challenging….

When examining the evolution of love, we considered what makes love evolutionarily adaptive. First, emotions appear to play an important role in decision-making and in other cognitive and rational processes. Love, as a specific emotion, may work as a catalyst for our decision-making and, in turn, make the process more efficient and rapid.

For example such evolutionary adaptiveness is evident when a mother decides to help her child in dangerous, life-threatening situation out of love for her child, which would promote the passing on of her genes to future generations. Secondly, the health benefits of being married, or in a long-term committed relationship, such as lower mortality rates, happiness, and decreased stress, provide support that love is evolutionary adaptive.

Although, we should consider that there may be some third variable contributing to the health benefits of relationships that we are not detecting through this correlational research. Love appears to have been a part of the human experience for thousands of years, and when considering why this emotion has persisted and is universal in nature, a potential answer lies in the evolutionary adaptiveness of love.

From fMRI evidence, researchers have made the claim that love may have addictive qualities because the same ‘reward pathway’ involved in addiction also appears to be involved in romantic love. Love, like other emotions, possesses addicting qualities, and the regulation of emotions often affects reward pathways. This result proved to be controversial in our discussions.

No matter the result of the fMRI scan of ‘romantic love,’ researchers probably would come up with a plausible story and would relate the brain areas that lit up in their study with the same areas that lit up in other studies concerning topics associated with some aspect of romantic love. In addition, concerns were raised about the methodology used to determine the neural basis of love because ‘romantic love’ is simply defined as looking at a photograph of a loved one during an fMRI.

Therefore, some individuals are skeptical about these fMRI results of ‘romantic love’ and about the conclusion of ‘love as an addiction.’ However, other individuals believe the connection between fMRI studies of addiction and of love and the recognition that both utilize similar brain areas is a valid, logical conclusion to make. Only through the appropriate collaboration of studies can we study specific brain areas and discover their actual functions.

Can romantic love be boiled down to a few hormones, neurotransmitters, and brain regions? Even though we have identified some key hormones, brain regions, and neurotransmitters, these key components interact with many other parts and substances in the brain and body, and therefore, we cannot isolate love to one chemical or brain region. Identifying specific biological substrates of something so complex as love is a difficult, and maybe even impossible, task, especially when we try to figure out the exact neural pathways and processes involved.

Discussing love from a neurobiological perspective is attractive to some individuals because it can provide ‘answers’ or help figure out what the elusive subject of ‘love’ actually is in more concrete terms. However, for others discussing love from the neurobiological perspective is disenchanting and inappropriate.

Source: brynmawr.edu
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Attachment is the bond that keeps couples together long enough for them to have and raise children. Scientists think there might be two major hormones involved in this feeling of attachment; oxytocin and vasopressin.

Oxytocin – The cuddle hormone

Oxytocin is a powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm.

It probably deepens the feelings of attachment and makes couples feel much closer to one another after they have had sex. The theory goes that the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes.

Oxytocin also seems to help cement the strong bond between mum and baby and is released during childbirth. It is also responsible for a mum’s breast automatically releasing milk at the mere sight or sound of her young baby.

Diane Witt, assistant professor of psychology from New York has showed that if you block the natural release of oxytocin in sheep and rats, they reject their own young.

Conversely, injecting oxytocin into female rats who’ve never had sex, caused them to fawn over another female’s young, nuzzling the pups and protecting them as if they were their own.


Vasopressin is another important hormone in the long-term commitment stage and is released after sex.

Vasopressin (also called anti-diuretic hormone) works with your kidneys to control thirst. Its potential role in long-term relationships was discovered when scientists looked at the prairie vole.

Prairie voles indulge in far more sex than is strictly necessary for the purposes of reproduction. They also – like humans – form fairly stable pair-bonds.

When male prairie voles were given a drug that suppresses the effect of vasopressin, the bond with their partner deteriorated immediately as they lost their devotion and failed to protect their partner from new suitors.

And finally … how to fall in love

  • Find a complete stranger.
  • Reveal to each other intimate details about your lives for half an hour.
  • Then, stare deeply into each other’s eyes without talking for four minutes.

    York psychologist, Professor Arthur Arun, has been studying why people fall in love. He asked his subjects to carry out the above 3 steps and found that many of his couples felt deeply attracted after the 34 minute experiment. Two of his subjects later got married. 
    Source: youramazingbrain.org

    Lots of sex, dark chocolate and the Scandinavian routine of cold meat for breakfast are the best ways to boost brain power, a new book claims. And watching soap operas, mixing with serial moaners and fat-free diets should be avoided in the quest for increased mental ability, the book says.

    Much of the advice in Teach Yourself Training Your Brain is unconventional, but its co-authors, Terry Horne and Simon Wootton, say it is based on leading scientific research. They claim that people can combat the considered wisdom that the brain deteriorates with age.

    Mr Horne, a university lecturer, said: “For decades we have thought that the capacity of our brains is genetically determined, whereas it’s now clear it’s a lifestyle choice.

    “People can make lifestyle choices that will not only prevent what used to be seen as an inevitable decline in cognitive ability after the age of 17, but will constantly increase it throughout our adult lives…..Our suggestions will empower people to develop their cognitive capacity or just to let it die.”

    Source: telegraph.co.uk

    Near-death experiences are tricks of the mind triggered by an overload of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, a new study suggests.

    Many people who have recovered from life-threatening injuries have said they experienced their lives flashing before their eyes, saw bright lights, left their bodies, or encountered angels or dead loved ones. In the new study, researchers investigated whether different levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide—the main blood gases—play a role in the mysterious phenomenon.

    The team studied 52 patients who had been admitted to three major hospitals and were eventually resuscitated. Eleven of the patients reported near-death experiences. During cardiac arrest and resuscitation, blood gases such as CO2 rise or fall because of the lack of circulation and breathing.

    “We found that in those patients who experienced the phenomenon, blood carbon-dioxide levels were significantly higher than in those who did not,” said team member Zalika Klemenc-Ketis, of the University of Maribor in Slovenia.

    Other factors, such a patient’s sex, age, or religious beliefs—or the time it took to revive them—had no bearing on whether the patients reported near-death experiences. The drugs used during initial treatment—a suggested explanation for near-death experiences after heart attacks—also didn’t seem to correlate with the sensations, according to the study authors.

    Read more at National Geographic

    {April 1, 2010}   Robots of the Future

    When the Czech playwright Karel Capek sat down in 1920 to write a play about humanoid machines that turn against their creators, he decided to call his imaginary creations ‘robots’, from the Czech word for ‘slave labour’. Ever since then, our thinking about robots, whether fictional or real, has been dominated by the two key ideas in Capek’s play. Firstly, robots are supposed to do the boring and difficult jobs that humans can’t do or don’t want to do. Secondly, robots are potentially dangerous.

    These two ideas remain influential, but not everyone accepts them. The first dissenting voice was that of the great Russian-American science-fiction writer, Isaac Asimov, who was born the same year that Capek wrote his notorious play. In 1940, barely two decades later, while others were still slavishly reworking Capek’s narrative about nasty robots taking over the world, Asimov was already asking what practical steps humanity might take to avoid this fate. And instead of assuming that robots would be confined to boring and dangerous jobs, Asimov imaged a future in which robots care for our children, and strike up friendships with us.

    From the perspective of the early twenty-first century, it might seem that Capek was right and that Asimov was an idealistic dreamer. After all, most currently-existing robots are confined to doing nasty, boring and dangerous jobs, right? Wrong. According to the 2003 World Robotics Survey produced by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, over a third of all the robots in the world are designed not to spray-paint cars or mow the lawn, but simply to entertain humans.

    And the number is rising fast. It is quite possible, then, that the killer app for robots will turn out to be not the slave labour envisaged by Capek, but the social companionship imagined by Asimov.


    et cetera