© 2016

Holding Hands with Bacteria

The Life and Work of Marjory Stephenson


Part of the SpringerBriefs in Molecular Science book series (BRIEFSMOLECULAR)

Also part of the SpringerBriefs in History of Chemistry book sub series (BRIESFHISTCHEM)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xx
  2. Soňa Štrbáňová
    Pages 1-11
  3. Soňa Štrbáňová
    Pages 13-24
  4. Soňa Štrbáňová
    Pages 25-44
  5. Soňa Štrbáňová
    Pages 77-85
  6. Soňa Štrbáňová
    Pages 87-105
  7. Soňa Štrbáňová
    Pages 107-118
  8. Soňa Štrbáňová
    Pages 119-124
  9. Back Matter
    Pages 125-145

About this book


This biographical brief outlines the remarkable life and career of British biochemist, Marjory Stephenson (1885-1948). In nine concise chapters, Štrbáňová describes Stephenson's scientific accomplishments and sets these against the socio-political challenges of the time. Stephenson played an important role in the development of biochemistry and molecular biology. She was one of the first scientists to use microorganisms as models for research into cellular biochemical processes and their regulation. Later she went on to coin the term chemical microbiology, which was communicated in her monograph and textbook "Bacterial Metabolism" (1930-1949). Stephenson also actively participated in the establishment of the institutionalized interdisciplinary field of general microbiology which integrated research into diverse forms of microorganisms at various levels of organization. Alongside these scientific achievements, Štrbáňová outlines Stephenson's constant battle with practices of undeclared discrimination, her important role as one of the first women science managers  and organizers, and her influential position within the scientific community. A scientist of great merit and a role model to women scientists of all disciplines, the life of Marjory Stephenson is of interest to biochemists, molecular biologists, historians of the chemical and biological sciences, and women scientists of all generations.


Cambridge University Department of Biochemistry Chemical Microbiology F. G. Hopkins History of Biochemistry History of Enzymology History of Molecular Biology Medical Research Council Royal Society Society of General Microbiology Women in Science Bacterial Metabolism Cellular Metabolism

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.of the Czech RepublicAcademy of SciencesPragueCzech Republic

About the authors

Soňa Štrbáňova is associate professor and research scientist at the Centre for the History of Sciences and Humanities (Institute for Contemporary History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic). She graduated in biochemistry at the Prague Charles University Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, and received her Ph.D. degree in biology at the Institute of Microbiology of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. 

In 1976, she professionalized in history of science. Her historical research focuses on the nineteenth- and twentieth-century history of chemistry, biochemistry and biotechnology; science national style, and institutionalization and communication networks in modern science. She has written, among others, the books Who Are We?(1978), and (with J. Janko) Science in Purkinje’s Time (1988). She has published about 300 scientific articles and edited several volumes and one encyclopedia, among them recently (with I. Stamhuis and K. Mojsejová) Women Scholars and Institutions, 2004; (with B. Hoppe and N. Robin) International Networks, Exchange and Circulation of Knowledge in Life Sciences 18th to 20th Centuries, (Archives international d’ histoire de sciences, 2006). She has co-edited with A. Kildebaek Nielsen the monograph Creating Networks in Chemistry; The Founding and Early History of Chemical Societies in Europe  (Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge 2008) and with A. Kostlán the encyclopedia One Hundred Czech Scholars in Exile (Academia, Prague 2011) and the conference proceedings Scholars in Exile and Dictatorships of the 20th Century (Prague 2011) .

Štrbáňova is Past President of the European Society for the History of Science, Effective Member of the International Academy of History of Science, member of the Czech National Committee for History of Science and Technology, member of the IUHPS/DHST Commission Women in Science, and member of the EuCheMS Working Party on History of Chemistry. She has received several awards, among them in 2012, the Medal for Contribution to History of Science of the Russian Academy of Sciences and  Prize of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Holding Hands with Bacteria
  • Book Subtitle The Life and Work of Marjory Stephenson
  • Authors Soňa Štrbáňová
  • Series Title SpringerBriefs in Molecular Science
  • Series Abbreviated Title SpringerBriefs in Molecular
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Author(s) 2016
  • Publisher Name Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
  • eBook Packages Chemistry and Materials Science Chemistry and Material Science (R0)
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-662-49734-0
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-662-49736-4
  • Series ISSN 2191-5407
  • Series E-ISSN 2191-5415
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XX, 145
  • Number of Illustrations 14 b/w illustrations, 22 illustrations in colour
  • Topics History of Chemistry
    History of Biology
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors
Chemical Manufacturing


“Holding Hands with Bacteria is a classic short biography. It concentrates on the life of biochemist Marjory Stephenson, following her through male-dominated institutions in England during the first half of the twentieth century. … Štrbáňová’s book is suitable for historians of biochemistry as well as readers with a more general interest in the history of science.” (Ariane Dröscher, Isis, Vol. 108 (3), September, 2017)

“Štrbáňová … chronicles the history of biochemistry and women in science via the noteworthy life of Marjory Stephenson (1885–1948). … The archives narrate a career spanning from World War I to World War II, and lucidly illustrate the obstacles imposed by a male-dominated academic hierarchy, as well as the challenges and opportunities in conducting research during a global war. … Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers.” (D. L. Jacobs, Choice, Vol. 54 (5), January, 2017)