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A Fractured Position in a Stable Partnership: Ebba Hult, Gerard De Geer, and Early Twentieth Century Swedish Geology

  • Staffan Bergwik (a1)

This article explores the scientific partnership between geology professor Gerard De Geer and his wife Ebba Hult following their marriage in 1908. De Geer was an influential participant in Swedish academia and international geology. Hult worked as his assistant until his death in 1943. The partnership was beneficial for both spouses, in particular through the semi-private Geochronological Institute, which they controlled. The article argues that marriage was a culturally acknowledged form of collaboration in the academic community, and as such it offered Hult access to geological research. However, the paper also argues that the gendered scientific institutions produced a fractured position. Partly, Hult managed to create her own role as researcher in geochronology. As a woman and a wife, however, she never moved out of her husband's shadow. Gender is understood as a relational category: Hult was an outsider who participated partially in standardized structures which gave great power to her husband and other men. The fact that she shared this status with other women in Swedish science at the time indicates the structural nature of their position. Nevertheless, they all had individual trajectories through academia. Indeed, the study of collaborative couples illustrates the multifaceted links between individual actions and the historical context of science.

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Deborah R. Coen 2007. Vienna in the Age of Uncertainty: Science, Liberalism and Private Life. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Ebba Hult De Geer . 1918. “Bibliographia De Geeriana.” Geologiska föreningens i Stockholm förhandlingar [Proceedings of the Geological Society in Stockholm] 40:809–52.

Ebba Hult De Geer . 1928. “Late Glacial Clay Varves in Iceland.” Geografiska annaler [Geographical annals] 10:297306.

Ebba Hult De Geer . 1936b. “Jahresringe und Jahrestemperatur.” [Treerings and yearly temperature] Geografiska annaler [Geographical Annals] 18:277–97.

Ebba Hult De Geer . 1948. “The Dislocated Scandinavian Baselevel Plain and the Mälar Valley in the Light of a Close Orographic Analysis.” Geologiska föreningens i Stockholm förhandlingar [Proceedings of the Geological Society in Stockholm] 70:385422.

Ebba Hult De Geer . 1954. “Synchronization of Late Glacial Events New England and the Baltic Region.” Geologiska föreningens i Stockholm förhandlingar [Proceedings of the Geological Society in Stockholm] 76:703–6.

Henrietta Kuklick , and Robert J. Kohler . 1996. “Introduction.” Osiris 11:114.

Anette Lykknes , L. Donald Opitz , and Brigitte Van Tiggelen , eds. 2012. For Better or Worse? Collaborative Couples in the Sciences. Basel: Birkhäuser.

Staffan Wennerholm . 2009. “On the Outskirts of Physics: Eva von Bahr as Outsider Within in Early Twentieth Century Experimental Physics.” Centaurus 51 (1):1236.

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Science in Context
  • ISSN: 0269-8897
  • EISSN: 1474-0664
  • URL: /core/journals/science-in-context
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