SciTech Commons hosts 'Y' of Sex display

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Teri L Skillman-Kashyap, (808) 956-8688
Events & Communications Coordinator, Library Services
Paul Wermager, 956-2541
Librarian, Hamilton Library
Posted: Jan 20, 2010

Did you know that until the 1900s scientists could not answer the age-old question: “Why was a person born male or female?”  From time immemorial, myths, rumors, religions, and old wives’ tales had tried to answer this question.  It was commonly believed that females determined, somehow, the sex of their children, and as a consequence, they were blamed, divorced and even executed for failing to produce male offspring.  King Henry VIII is rumored to have had Anne Boleyn beheaded for not producing a male heir.

 In 1905, Nettie Maria Stevens—an American scientist—was the first to discover that sex was determined by our chromosomes, namely, the “Y” chromosome that is only present in the genetic makeup of males.  However, today’s textbooks fail to mention Stevens and her discovery, and assign credit to one of her male colleagues, Edmund Beecher Wilson. 

 Visit UH Mānoa Library’s SciTech Commons to view the ‘Y’ of Sex display.  Learn more about Nettie Maria Stevens, one of America’s early women scientists.  Stevens worked as a librarian for several years, obtained both her BS and MS degrees within 2 years at Stanford University, and passed away in 1912 before her prime, from breast cancer.  See a detailed map of all your 23 chromosomes.  Uncover little known information, such as, the controversy over who should be credited with discovering the chromosomal determination of sex, and that 1.7% of human births are intersex , meaning humans whose biological sex cannot be classified as either male or female.

The display will remain open until the end of February and is viewable during building hours.  For more information, visit: or call Paul Wermager at 956-2541 or email

For more information, visit: