Ann Hibner Koblitz

Ann Hibner Koblitz
Known forCross-cultural perspectives on women in science and Director of the Kovalevskaia Fund
AwardsMargaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize
Honorary Doctorate from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
President's Friendship Medal (Vietnam)
Academic background
Alma materPrinceton University
Boston University
Academic work
InstitutionsHartwick College
Arizona State University

Ann Hibner Koblitz (born 1952) is Professor Emerita of Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University and was a pioneer in studying the history of women in science. She is the Director of the Kovalevskaia Fund, which supports women in science in developing countries.

Education and career[edit]

She received her B.A. in history of science from Princeton University, where she was in the first class of women admitted as undergraduates.[1] She earned her Ph.D. in history from Boston University. She studied and did research in the Soviet Union in 1974-75, 1978, 1981–82, 1985, and 1986. In 1984-85 she was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, after which she had temporary teaching positions at Wellesley College, Oregon State University, and the University of Puget Sound. From 1989-98 she taught at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York. Since 1998 she has been a professor at Arizona State University.[2]


In a graduate seminar in 1977 Ann Hibner Koblitz criticized an article by political scientist Samuel Huntington for misusing mathematics in an attempt to buttress his arguments. This led her husband Neal Koblitz to include her critique in an article he wrote on "Mathematics as Propaganda,"[3] and this in turn inspired Yale mathematician Serge Lang to lead a campaign against the election of Huntington to the National Academy of Sciences. The journalist Charles Sykes, who describes the episode in detail in his book Profscam,[4] writes that

Samuel Huntington's election to the National Academy of Sciences would probably have been little more than a formality if it had not been for a graduate student named Ann Koblitz. The dispute that would shake the social sciences to their quantitative foundations, that was featured on the front page of The New York Times, in articles in The New Republic, Science, and Discover, and that would convulse the normally insouciant National Academy of Sciences, can be traced back to a single assignment in a graduate seminar on historical methodology at Boston University in 1977.

Despite the vigorous defense of Huntington by Nobel Prize winning economist Herbert Simon,[5][6] Lang's campaign was successful, and Huntington was twice voted down by the Academy's members.[7]

In the 1980s and 1990s Koblitz was a vocal critic of the gender essentialism of Evelyn Fox Keller, who maintained that modern science is inherently patriarchal and ill-suited for women.[8] Koblitz argued that Keller failed to appreciate the multi-faceted nature of scientific research and the great diversity of experiences of women across cultures and time periods.[9] For example, in the 19th century the first women to earn advanced university degrees in Europe in any field were almost all in the natural sciences and medicine.[10] In an article about the first 20 years of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM),[11] the mathematician and former AWM president Lenore Blum wrote

In the mid-1980s, there was a flurry of work by a group of feminist theorists on gender and science. In commentary fairly critical of this work, Ann Hibner Koblitz succinctly summarized the main ideas behind the theory: "Put in its most general guise, the new 'gender theory' says that centuries of male domination of science have affected its content -- what questions are asked and what answers are found -- and that 'science' and 'objectivity' have become inextricably linked to concepts and ideologies of masculinity." She lists eight criticisms of which I will mention only two, namely, that gender theorists "seem unaware of the increasing numbers of women who have had satisfying lives as scientists" and "employ cartoon-character stereotypes of science, scientists, men, and women."

In the 1990s and early 2000s an influential group of archaeologists, led by Steven A. LeBlanc of Harvard, popularized the notion that warfare was endemic among all prehistoric peoples.[12][13][14] Koblitz analyzed the writings of this group, compared them to other sources,[15][16] and concluded that the claim of pervasive warfare among the ancient Hohokam people of present-day central Arizona is a modern "masculinist narrative" that has little support in the archaeological record.[17] After speaking at the Old Pueblo Archaeology Center near Tucson, Arizona,[18] Koblitz was asked to write a version of her Men and Masculinities article for the Center's Bulletin. In that article she wrote:[19]

On the basis of scant evidence, they have created a story of prehistoric militarism that harmonizes well with early 21st-century U.S. political culture. Whether this warlike image has much bearing on the actual lives and pursuits of indigenous Southwest populations of the 11th through 15th centuries is, however, open to doubt.


In 1985 Koblitz and her husband Neal established the Kovalevskaia Fund as a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to support and encourage women in developing countries in science, mathematics, engineering, and medicine.[20] It was originally aimed at promoting women in the sciences in Vietnam; it grew out of Ann's work on the history of women and science, her and Neal's experience in the opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and their efforts to help promote science in Vietnam afterwards.[21] Grants were at first made solely in Vietnam, but were eventually extended to other developing countries.[21]

Selected works[edit]

  • A Convergence of Lives : Sofia Kovalevskaia--Scientist, Writer, Revolutionary (Second ed.). New Brunswick (New Jersey): Rutgers University Press. 1993. ISBN 9780813519630.[22]
  • Science, Women, and Revolution in Russia. Harwood Academic. 2000. ISBN 978-9057026201.[23]
  • Sex and Herbs and Birth Control : Women and Fertility Regulation Through the Ages. Kovalevskaia Fund. 2014. ISBN 978-0989665506.[24]
Selected journal publications
  • "A historian looks at gender and science". International Journal of Science Education. 9 (3): 399–407. 1987. doi:10.1080/0950069870090318.
  • "Science, women, and the Russian intelligentsia: The generation of the 1860s". Isis. 79 (2): 208–226. 1988. doi:10.1086/354696.
  • "Gender and science where science is on the margins". Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. 25 (2): 107–114. 2005. doi:10.1177/0270467604272640.
  • "Male bonding around the campfire: Constructing myths of Hohokam militarism". Men and Masculinities. 9 (1): 95–107. 2006. doi:10.1177/1097184X05277697.
  • "Life in the fast lane: Arab women in science and technology". Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. 36 (2): 107–117. 2016. doi:10.1177/0270467616658745.


  • In 1985, Koblitz was invited to give the Kenneth O. May Lecture on the History of Mathematics at the University of Toronto.[25]
  • In 1990, Koblitz won the History of Science Society's Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize[26] for her article "Science, Women, and the Russian Intelligentsia: The Generation of the 1860s" that appeared in the Society's journal Isis in 1988.
  • In 1995, Koblitz received an honorary doctorate from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana.[27]
  • In 2010, the Government of Vietnam conferred a President's Friendship Medal on her.[28]
  • In 2015, Koblitz won the "Transdisciplinary Book Award" of the Arizona State University Institute for Humanities Research for her book Sex and Herbs and Birth Control: Women and Fertility Regulation Through the Ages.[24]


  1. ^ Malkiel, Nancy Weiss (2016). "Keep the Damned Women Out": The Struggle for Coeducation. Princeton University Press. p. 221. ISBN 9780691172996.
  2. ^ Koblitz, Neal (2007). Random Curves: Journeys of a Mathematician. Springer-Verlag.
  3. ^ Neal Koblitz, "Mathematics as Propaganda," in L. A. Steen, ed., Mathematics Tomorrow, Springer-Verlag, 1981.
  4. ^ Charles J. Sykes, Profscam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education, St. Martin's Press, 1988, pp. 208-218.
  5. ^ Herbert A. Simon,
  6. ^ Herbert A. Simon, "Unclad emperors: A case of mistaken identity," The Mathematical Intelligencer, vol. 10, no. 1 (1988), pp. 11-14.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science, Yale University Press, 1985.
  9. ^ Ann Hibner Koblitz, "A historian looks at gender and science," International Journal of Science Education, vol. 9 (1987), pp. 399-407.
  10. ^ Ann Hibner Koblitz, Science, Women and Revolution in Russia, Routledge, 2000.
  11. ^ Lenore Blum, "AWM's first twenty years: The presidents' perspectives," in Bettye Anne Case and Anne M. Leggett, eds., Complexities: Women in Mathematics, Princeton University Press, 2005, pp. 80-98.
  12. ^ Steven A. LeBlanc, "Prehistory of warfare," Archaeology, vol. 56, no. 3 (May–June 2003), pp. 18-25.
  13. ^ Steven A. LeBlanc, Prehistoric Warfare in the American Southwest, University of Utah Press, 1999.
  14. ^ Steven A. LeBlanc and Glen Rice, eds., Deadly Landscapes: Case Studies in Prehistoric Southwestern Warfare, University of Utah Press, 2001.
  15. ^ Paul R. Fish and Suzanne K. Fish, "Hohokam warfare from a regional perspective," in Diana Claire Tkaczuk and Brian C. Vivian, eds., Cultures in Conflict: Current Archaeological Perspectives, Archaeological Association of the University of Calgary, 1989, pp. 112-129.
  16. ^ Todd W. Bostwick, "Look to the sky: Another view of hilltop sites in central Arizona," in John R. Welch and Todd W. Bostwick, eds., The Archaeology of Ancient Tactical Sites, Arizona Archaeological Council, 2001, pp. 37-53.
  17. ^ Ann Hibner Koblitz, "Male bonding around the campfire: Constructing myths of Hohokam militarism," Men and Masculinities, Vol. 9 (2006), pp. 95-107.
  18. ^ "March is Archaeology Awareness Month! Old Pueblo Archaelogy Center Events," Old Pueblo Archaelogy, No. 52 (March 2008), p. 9.
  19. ^ Ann Hibner Koblitz, "Warriors, campfires, and a big stick: Modern male fantasies of Hohokam militarism," Old Pueblo Archaelogy, No. 53 (June 2008), pp. 2-5.
  20. ^ Koblitz, Ann Hibner; Koblitz, Neal (12 January 2009). "The Kovalevskaia Fund". The Mathematical Intelligencer. 22 (2): 62–65. doi:10.1007/BF03025378.
  21. ^ a b Tucker, William H. (2015). Princeton Radicals of the 1960s, Then and Now. McFarland. ISBN 9781476663012.
  22. ^ Kozlov, Alex (1984). "Book Review: The remarkable story of Sofia Kovalevskaia, the first woman to become a mathematician". SIAM News. 17 (2): 6. Koblitz describes Kovalevskaia's life and work in the context of her political and cultural environment. Kovalevskaia's achievements thus become understood as fruits of a conscious social and intellectual movement, and as a source of inspiration for many, rather than as the extraordinary accomplishments of one isolated individual.
  23. ^ Vucinich, Alexander (March 2002). "Book review: Ann Hibner Koblitz. Science, Women, and Revolution in Russia". Isis. 93 (1): 154–155. doi:10.1086/343330. This book is welcome as the first solid effort to draw a general picture of the multiple ramifications of the ascent of Russian women to professional positions in science. It also contributes to a better understanding of the growing movement in favor of broader participation by women in the full spectrum of professional activities.
  24. ^ a b "IHR Book Award 2015". Institute for Humanities Research. Retrieved 23 March 2018. Dr. Ann Hibner Koblitz's groundbreaking book, Sex and Herbs and Birth Control takes the reader on a journey across time and space, investigating the always innovative (and occasionally) surprising approaches to women's health from India to Cuba. Dr. Koblitz covers topics such as forensic pathology, the meaning of abortion, and Margaret Sanger, all the while proffering a fresh, insightful take on an age old dilemma. Dr. Koblitz's book is a wonderful example of truly transdisciplinary research and the amazing results of breaking down rigid disciplinary borders.
  25. ^ Mathematics and the Historian's Craft: The Kenneth O. May Lectures, Springer-Verlag, 2005.
  26. ^ "The Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize - History of Science Society". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  27. ^ "30 April 1999". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  28. ^ "Outstanding female scientists honoured". Retrieved 23 March 2018.