Quantcast
Connect with us

Forgotten women of science win recognition online

Published

on

Royal Society and Wikimedia UK mark Ada Lovelace Day with event to promote work of female scientists

By late afternoon scores of red women on Sam Haskell’s list had turned blue: female scientists, some dead and some living, many immensely distinguished, some geniuses, but whose names have almost been forgotten even by their peers.

Up the grand marble staircase of the Royal Society in London, under the imposing gold and white library ceiling, women and a handful of men had gathered, joined by many more online across the world, to correct a gross injustice.

The list gradually changing colour on Haskell’s screen represented hundreds of women scientists who have either never had a Wikipedia entry, or whose lives and work are dismissed in a stub a few lines long.

The names turning blue represented the success of a live edit-a-thon jointly organised by the Royal Society, where Haskell is digital communications officer, and Wikimedia UK – together with the promoters of Ada Lovelace Day, held every year in honour of the 19th-century mathematician, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, who became a pioneer of computing theory.

The event in London was booked out for weeks, but many more joined online, some starting work days ago.

ADVERTISEMENT

Prof Uta Frith, psychologist, fellow of the Royal Society and one of the event organisers, arrived determined to rescue the reputation of Mary Buckland, a scientist and brilliant natural history illustrator, from the shadow of her husband, a 19th-century librarian and fellow of the society. She found to her surprise that somebody online had got there before her. She settled down with a stack of books to expand it, but found, as so often, that she was having to fillet scraps about Mary from the biographies of her husband and son.

“It is shameful that when you ask people, including scientists, to name well-known female scientists and engineers, they can barely get past Marie Curie,” she said. “I think this is very much because they are not in our consciousness, or they have not been given high enough profile for their work. Wikipedia is one of the first places that many people go for information, but if it’s not there how will we ever learn about our scientific heroines. This event is a very small but important step towards putting these very special women in the spotlight they deserve.”

Typical of many female scientists, Frith suspects, she has never even looked at her own Wikipedia entry (a respectable six paragraphs and a chunky slab of references) and wouldn’t dream of editing it. “I just couldn’t” she said, slightly puzzled, “I wouldn’t even want to read it. It just wouldn’t seem right.”

Entries added for living scientists included Eleanor Maguire, professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London, who briefly gave every grumpy London taxi driver a glow of happy pride when her research proved their brains developed remarkably as they acquired “the knowledge”, their hard- wired interior maps of every street in London. Up until Friday, she had not had even a stub in Wikipedia.

ADVERTISEMENT

Other stubs were expanded. Dame Louise Napier-Johnson, a biochemist and protein crystallographer, professor of molecular biophysics at Oxford for 17 years from 1990, had previously merited just eight lines, one taken up with noting her death last month, and her marriage to the Nobel laureate Abdus Salam. His entry runs to more than 200 lines.

Sometimes there was an audible snarl in the room as the researchers discovered a clue as to how these women retired into the shadows. In 1878 Mary Elizabeth Barber, a UK-born, South African-reared scientist who identified many new plant species, and indirectly influenced Darwin, was invited to join a distinguished South African natural history society.

She responded: “I don’t see any reason why a lady should in a quiet way be a member of any scientific society … I do not by any means approve of ladies coming publicly forward and usurping the places of men by preaching, making speeches etc, but I don’t see why they should not belong to any society that they are qualified for, and in a quiet way enjoy the privileges too.”

“Well honestly!” snapped Seirian Sumner, a research fellow at the Institute of Zoology at London Zoo, sisterly solidarity slipping for an instant, before she resumed her effort to haul Barber’s reputation back into the light.

ADVERTISEMENT

© Guardian News and Media 2012

[Portrait of Ada Lovelace via Wikipedia Commons]

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump biographer mocks president for humiliating foreign policy ‘triple fail’

Published

on

Trump biographer Timothy O'Brien on Monday published a column for Bloomberg in which he mocked the president for suffering a humiliating foreign policy "triple fail" that exposed his presidency's biggest weaknesses.

In his column, O'Brien pointed out that Trump's threats of major actions against Mexico and Iran never amounted to anything, while also noting that the president backed off his plans to begin the mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

How the New York Times creates credibility for Trump

Published

on

There’s a good reason why the Times decided against running on its front page news of the latest woman to accuse the president of rape. The Times still does journalism the way it always has. It gives people in power the never-ending benefit of the doubt.

When you are willing to give people in power the benefit of the doubt no matter how many times they have proven they are unworthy of that benefit, it’s not all that important when the 16th person comes forward credibly to accuse Donald Trump of anything, even if, in the case of columnist E. Jean Carroll, the allegation is rape.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Ex-Trump aide Jason Miller forced out of posh legal job after profane rant against House Judiciary chair

Published

on

Another former advisor to President Donald Trump is being "retired" from their position after a social media rant about House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the Daily Beast reported.

Miller was working as a managing director at a prominent Washington, D.C. consulting firm before the rant, but after it is "parting ways."

“I have parted ways with Teneo by mutual consent and look forward to formally announcing my next move in the coming weeks,” Miller said in a statement. “Teneo is an incredible firm and without a doubt the premier CEO consultancy on the planet. They have always been great to me and I’m proud to have called them teammates for the past two and a half years.”

Continue Reading
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

 ENOUGH IS ENOUGH 

Trump endorses killing journalists, like Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Online ad networks are now targeting sites that cover acts of violence against dissidents, LGBTQ people and people of color.

Learn how you can help.
close-link