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Utanför gränserna: En vetenskapshistorisk biografi om Astrid Cleve von Euler
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
2012 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
A Scientific Outsider : A Biography of Astrid Cleve von Euler (English)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation is a scientific biography of Astrid Cleve von Euler. She was Sweden’s first female Ph.D. graduate in the natural sciences (1898) and pursued a scientific career in spite of formal and cultural limitations. Though she failed to secure a professional position as a scientist, she published numerous papers throughout her life. The dissertation studies her life in general and analyses her research in particular. How did her research change over time in relation to the rest of her life? How did established scientists receive her research? How did her status as a woman on the fringes of academia affect her research? Sociologist Thomas F. Gieryn’s concepts of boundary-work and credibility contests are important analytical tools in the interpretation of these questions, as Cleve’sresearch was regulated by various boundaries: between professionals and amateurs, between men and women and between different academic disciplines.

The study is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter introduces the dissertation, its objective and theoretical framework. The remaining chapters follow Cleve’s life in a chronological and sometimes thematic order and the source material is continually analysed. Chapter two accounts for Cleve’s childhood and student years in Uppsala, ending with her Ph.D. graduation. Chapter tree focuses on her research as a chemist and her ten years of marriage to a fellow researcher, Hans von Euler-Chelpin, a marriage that was closely intertwined with their academic studies. The fourth chapter studies Cleve’s controversy with some of the leading quaternary geologists in Sweden at the time, regarding the level changes of the Scandinavian land mass following the latest Ice Age. The fifth chapter diverges slightly from Cleve’s research, and investigates her undertakings in popular science and her political standpoints. Chapter six analyses her archaeological studies as part of the scientific controversy she was involved in, but also as influenced by political and religious views. Finally, the seventh chapter begins with a closer look at Cleve’s diatom studies, already part of most of the study but thus far not focused on as such, and ends with the main conclusions of the entire dissertation project.

The dissertation shows that while science was part of Cleve’s life from childhood to death, factors other than her personal desire to uncover scientific truths governed her research opportunities and the topics of her studies. While she was consistently highly regarded as a diatom expert and gained some success as a chemist, disciplines she was formally educated in, she was met with scepticism and eventually silence when she tried to make an impact in quaternary geology and archaeology, fields of research in which she had no formal training. This demonstrates a possibility to simultaneously be regarded as credible and non-credible as a scientist, as credibility is not necessarily attached to the individual, but to his or her formal expertise in a particular area.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2012. , 317 p.
, Historiska studier: skrifter från Umeå universitet, 5
Keyword [en]
History of science, biography, women scientists, diatoms, botany, geology, archaeology, popular science, boundary-work, Astrid Cleve, Hans von Euler-Chelpin, Sweden
National Category
History of Ideas
Research subject
History Of Sciences and Ideas
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-60926ISBN: 978-91-7459-499-7OAI: diva2:564736
Public defence
2012-11-30, Humanisthuset, Hörsal G, Umeå universitet, 901 87 Umeå, Umeå, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2012-11-09 Created: 2012-11-03 Last updated: 2012-11-08Bibliographically approved

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