“It’s not humanly possible to be a good wife, a good mother and a first-class scientist. No one can do it–something has to go.” That discouraging statement, contrary to what you may suppose, comes not from a snobbish misogynist but from Lynn Margulis. At the time of her death on November 22 at the age of 73, Margulis was Distinguished University Professor of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
At bottom, it may just depend on differing definitions of success. Yalow, for example, believed that “her children paid no price for the demands of her scientific career,” the Post quotes a biographer as writing, while her daughter reportedly said, “She just wasn’t physically around….She didn’t do the things that parents are supposed to do.” Nonetheless, her daughter reportedly said, “She was a pretty wonderful mother.”
live-in help until her younger child was 9; after that, the amount of
household help declined. She even mentioned the detail of living “less than a mile from the VA” in her Nobel autobiography. Figuring out what works for oneself and one’s family is the challenge that she, Margulis, and every wife and mother who wants a career in science — or, in fact, in any other field — faces. That two different women took different approaches and came to different conclusions is hardly surprising. It does, however, remind us of the most important lesson of all: that no one answer works for everyone, and each person and family must follow the path that seems right for them.