In a time when it was considered an impressive accomplishment for awoman to have an education, Laura Bassi earned a doctorate and became auniversity professor1.She worked with unrelenting determination toachieve her goals and be treated as an equal in her field. Bassi, who wasborn on October 20th 1711, did not try to impress or fit in with anyparticular group. She managed to raise 12 children in addition to herprofessional duties2. She is an important historical figure because of hercontributions to science, which span across several fields. She is alsoimportant because she had to work so much harder to achieve these goals,due to the obstacles facing every woman seeking this type of employment inher era.Bassi was a noted professor of anatomy, an accomplished physicist, aDoctor of philosophy, and a mother of twelve3. Even today, over 200 yearsafter her death, most women would be considered successful with even one ofthese titles to their name.

Bassi had incredible drive and gave her all toeach of her responsibilities. She somehow managed to find the time to docharity work helping the poor, and enjoyed writing poetry4. Bassi’s timewas mostly spent teaching, experimenting, and attending meetings of theBologna Academy of Science.

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She was genuinely interested in her work andit was important to her to pass her knowledge on to others whom encouragedto become educated.One possible reason for the long list of Bassi’s accomplishments isthe excellent start to her education. Even as a child, she displayed anextraordinary aptitude for learning, as she easily mastered languages andbecame fluent in both French and Latin5. She became a professor at age 21,the result of her hard work with tutors, as well as a powerful memory6.

Another possible contributor to Bassi’s drive and subsequent successes wasthat after accomplishing so much, so young, her standards were setextremely high in every challenge encountered.After much insisting by her family and friends, Laura took part in apublic debate to defend her set of theses on philosophy. On April 17,1732, she debated with five men who were considered to be the top scholarsin Italy at that time7. Bassi took this opportunity to shine. Hersuccessful debating earned her the respect of many and a degree inphilosophy, and this announced her as an equal amongst the much older, moreeducated men.

Although she was officially given the position of professor at theUniversity of Bologna, getting permission to actually teach was much moredifficult. Bassi tried everything within her power to convince the Senatorsto allow her to teach a class regularly, but her requests fell on deaf earsfor many years. The all-male Senate wanted her to be solely and honorarymember, not active on campus8. She was permitted to give lecturessporadically, but this did not satisfy her desire to teach. Thediscouraging response from the Senate did not make Bassi give up, on thecontrary, she just kept trying.When she couldn’t teach at school, Bassi took matters into her ownhands and in 1749 began teaching lessons from her own home. She taughtmathematics first and then settled into more popular classes in physics andanatomy.

The physics course became very popular, attracting not only youngstudents but adults as well9. This is important because is demonstrateshow well respected Bassi was, as grown men would not normally take ascience class from a woman. Due to the fact that she was teaching theselessons at home, Bassi was able to branch out and teach whatever shewanted, without having to consider university curriculum. She exercisedthis freedom regularly, and taught Newtonian philosophy, which was stillconsidered modern and wasn’t widely accepted10.Since Bassi had now proven herself as a competent and innovativeteacher, the question remained: why was she not teaching regularly at theuniversity? The only answer is she was discriminated against because of hersex. As the number of her supporters grew, including the Pope himself,more pressure was put on the Senate to give her a proper classroom.

Persistence finally paid off for Bassi in 1776, as she was granted aregular teaching position, only two years before her death. She was aprofessor of experimental physics, and conducted many experiments andobservations as the focus of her class11.Laura Bassi was not interested in marriage when she was young, as shethought it was much more useful to spend her time devoted to her work. Manyin the community were surprised when she did marry in 173812. Some peoplespoke out against her marriage, claiming it would tarnish her professionalreputation, and most assumed her career would end as a result. Bassi provedthem all wrong. She was successful in both her professional and familylife.

This is another example of how strong-willed and independent Bassiwas, she was completely unconcerned with trying to be conventional.Bassi’s motives for marrying her husband may have related to the factthat many people disapproved of her spending so much time with groups ofmen in her home13. She was the subject of much gossip and accusationsabout her relationships with these men.

After she married fellow professorand scientist Giuseppe Verrati the rumours ceased, as he began to accompanyher to meetings. This is not to say that Bassi was careless in her choiceof her husband. She said that she decided to marry him because she thoughthim to be “a person who walks my path in the arts and who, through longexperience, I was certain would not impede me from following mine.”14Most women in this era did not work at all outside the home. Forthis reason, Bassi’s accomplishments as a scientist and a mother were allthe more impressive.

Also, her success at work and home was an inspirationto many women who had never even considered the possibilities of leadingthis “double life”. As a pioneer of working women, Bassi is an ideal rolemodel for all women who want the best of both worlds.She invented devices for experimenting with electricity, but made nonotable major discoveries. Her contributions to science15, and especiallywomen in science go far beyond the role any invention would play. She wasan inspiration for others to get educated.

She was an inspiration to womento have their own goals and to work hard and achieve them.Historically, we see Laura Bassi as the first female collegeprofessor to actually teach a class16. This well-deserved recognitiondoesn’t tell half the story of her accomplishments through teaching andinspiring her students, and the revolution she helped stir to get womenrecognized as equals in a professional field. Bassi is unique because shestood up for herself and gained the job and respect she was seeking. Sheis an important historical figure because unlike the women who came beforeher, Bassi would not tolerate the discriminatory system in which she wasborn.BibliographyBailey Ogilvie, Marilyn.

Women in Science: Antiquity through the NineteenthCentury. Cambridge, Mass.; The MIT Press, 1986, (37)Berti Logan, Gabriella. “The Desire to Contribute: An Eighteenth-CenturyItalian Woman of Science.

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Women In Science: With an Introductory Chapter onWoman’s Long Struggle for Things of the Mind. Cambridge, Mass.; Universityof Notre Dame Press, 1913 (pg. 78)2 Mozans, H.

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J. Women In Science: With an Introductory Chapter onWoman’s Long Struggle for Things of the Mind. Cambridge, Mass.; Universityof Notre Dame Press, 1913 (pg.

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7919 Berti Logan, Gabriella. “The Desire to Contribute: An Eighteenth-Century Italian Woman of Science.” American Historical Review, 99 (June1994) pg.

79710 Berti Logan, Gabriella. “The Desire to Contribute: An Eighteenth-Century Italian Woman of Science.” American Historical Review, 99 (June1994) pg.79811 Mozans, H.J.

Women In Science: With an Introductory Chapter onWoman’s Long Struggle for Things of the Mind. Cambridge, Mass.; Universityof Notre Dame Press, 1913 (pg. 209)12 Bailey Ogilvie, Marilyn.

Women in Science: Antiquity through theNineteenth Century. Cambridge, Mass.; The MIT Press, 1986 (pg. 37)13Berti Logan, Gabriella.

“The Desire to Contribute: An Eighteenth-Century Italian Woman of Science.” American Historical Review, 99 (June1994) pg. 79514Berti Logan, Gabriella. “The Desire to Contribute: An Eighteenth-Century Italian Woman of Science.” American Historical Review, 99 (June1994) pg.79515Berti Logan, Gabriella. “The Desire to Contribute: An Eighteenth-Century Italian Woman of Science.” American Historical Review, 99 (June1994) 790, 793, 797-8, 801, 803-81116Mozans, H.

J. Women In Science: With an Introductory Chapter onWoman’s Long Struggle for Things of the Mind. Cambridge, Mass.; Universityof Notre Dame Press, 1913 (pg.202)