It’s day 19 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Day 18 was super busy for me with work, doc appointments, and life, so I was unable to post. It happens. But hopefully today’s (late) post will be informative and eye-opening. It certainly was for me.
Sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and all the other prejudices and bigotries that plague humanity exist in science. On the one hand, scientists are rational people who should be objective, but on the other hand, scientists are, well, human. We’re not immune to biases and the cultural and societal systems in which we exist.
British physicist, Dr. Jess Wade, was reminded of this when she created a biography for prominent climate scientist Dr. Kim Cobb, discovering that deserving women like Cobb whose names — and lengthy list of achievements — had not been curated Wikipedia, the go-to site for most folks seeking information on the Internet. Naturally, male scientists do not suffer from the same issues and are often credited for achievements at the expense of female colleagues.
Google Dr. Rosalind Franklin and find out how bigot and all-around horrible human being James Watson stole her data and got credit for “discovering” DNA. He’s so bad he was stripped of honorifics after making bigoted comments about race and intelligence. Look up Dr. Arthur Eichengrün and find out how the precursor to the company Bayer, who collaborated with Nazis, gave credit for the discovery of aspirin to Dr. Eichengrün’s non-Jewish technician because of anti-Semitism and STILL haven’t acknowledged Eichengrün’s contribution. Yuck. I was today years old when I learned about Dr. Sophia B. Jones, the first Black female graduate of the University of Michigan’s Medical School in 1885 and later became the first female faculty member at Spelman College and spearheaded public health programs and health equity initiatives for Black Americans. There are countless other stories we’ve never heard of because of white supremacy and patriarchy, which celebrates the achievements of straight cis white males and minimizes or erases all others.
Dr. Wade decided to address this disparity by writing over 1,750 Wikipedia pages for female and minority scientists who didn’t already have their accomplishments documented on the site. Check out her own Wiki page, too! Not all heroes wear capes – some wear lab coats and cool glasses.
I’m totally going to make a Wikipedia page for myself. Men do it all the time, so why not??
Shout out to Dr. Wade, to the people behind these stories and their amazing contributions to science, and to a future in which we trade bias and bigotry for inclusiveness and giving credit where credit is due to everyone!
Thanks to my gal pal Florence Cardon for sharing the Washington Post article link with me, and to TikTok creator @inevitablebetrayal for shining a light on Bayer.