American Women in Science (1994)

American Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary. Martha J. Bailey. Denver: ABC-CLIO, 1994; pages 43-44.

Bunting, Martha (b. 1861) Biologist

Education: B.L., Swarthmore College, 1881; B.S., University of Pennsylvania, 1890; Bryn Mawr College, 1891-1893; Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, 1891-1892; Ph.D., Bryn Mawr College, 1895; Columbia University, 1898-1899; Woods Hole, 1899.

Employment: Instructor in biology, Goucher College, 1893-1897; high school teacher, 1897-1898, 1900-1910 [-1912]; research assistant, University of Pennsylvania, 1910-1916, 1918-1919, fellow by courtesy, 1919-1924, 1926-1927, 1930-1931.

Martha Bunting’s work was considered significant enough to have her name included in the first edition of American Men and Women of Science. Her education and career were typical of women of her generation, but it is difficult today to see its significance.[1] She received a doctorate from Bryn Mawr College, one of the few colleges at the time that granted advanced degrees to women. She spent more than ten years as a high school teacher even after she received a Ph.D. from a prestigious college. She spent over ten years as a fellow by courtesy at the University of Pennsylvania, rather than receiving a permanent appointment (even the appointments there were sporadic, with gaps of several years in some instances). She was engaged in war relief work from 1916 to 1918; many women scientists of her day were unable to receive continuous employment or research funding in order to produce a significant body of research. She was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. She mentions a long list of research interests: photozoology [sic; this should be “protozoology”, i.e., the study of protozoa]; sex cells in Hydractinia and Podocoryne; otoliths and the geotropic functions of Astacus; life cycle and binary fission in Tetramitus rostratus, Perty; and cork tissues in the roots of rosaceous genera.

Bibliography: American Men and Women of Science 1-7; Harshberger, John W., The Botanists of Philadelphia and Their Work; Siegel, Patricia J. and Kay Thomas Finley, Women in the Scientific Search; Who Was Who in America.

  1. [1]  It almost seems like there’s an omission in this sentence: “Her education and career were typical of [highly educated?] women of her generation, but it is difficult today to see its significance” — given that Martha Bunting’s education was atypical among women of her generation, obviously. Perhaps the author meant that highly educated women like Martha Bunting were usually slighted by academia back then, excluded from teaching positions, etc., which of course was true. As for the second part of the sentence (“…but it is difficult today to see its significance”), whether “its significance” refers to Martha’s education and/or career (or the word “work” in the preceding sentence), this is an unfair assessment, since a deeper look into Martha’s life will show that she was quite successful in many of her pursuits, academic or otherwise.

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