Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 July 2013
The history of Italian “popular science” publishing from the 1860s to the 1930s provides the context to explore three phenomena: the building of a scientific community, the entering of women into higher education, and (male) scientists’ reaction to women in science. The careers of Evangelina Bottero (1859–1950) and Carolina Magistrelli (1857–1939), science writers and teachers in an institute of higher education, offer hints towards an understanding of those interrelated macro phenomena. The dialogue between a case study and the general context in a comparative perspective will help us understand why Italian scientists, in the last decades of the nineteenth century, unlike their British colleagues, did not close the doors of the university on women. The case confirms the history of so-called popular science as a useful tool for historians of science generally and also when dealing with the awakening of a new social actor: in this case the “new woman” who, from the 1870s, was determined to take up science in a professional capacity.