What a Working Woman Needs: A Wife

What a Working Woman Needs: A Wife


Illustration: Randall Enos

Illustration: Randall Enos

DR. CHRISTIANE NÜSSLEIN-VOLHARD, director of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany, has been described as “one of the most important developmental biologists of all time.” In 1995 she and two collaborators won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for identifying the genes that guide the transformation of a single cell into an embryo.

With that prize comes fame and some fortune, and Dr. Nüsslein-Volhard is using hers to promote a fledgling project that working women everywhere may think worthy of a second Nobel – maybe the Peace Prize this time. She is not financing science, she is financing scientists – women scientists who can use her money to pay for help with the children, the cooking and the cleaning.

It’s not just here in the United States that academics are arguing over why there is a dearth of women in the sciences. True, the stateside debate has been louder lately, ignited by the suggestion by Harvard’s president, Lawrence H. Summers, that women may have less “intrinsic aptitude” in science and engineering than men. During the height of the shouting, the thought that kept nagging at me was this: The only relevant thing male scientists have that female scientists lack is a wife. And everybody needs a wife. READ MORE