She must be the Queen of Science


I just finished grading the exam I gave yesterday in cell biology. Every year, in one of my biology core classes, I slip in a common bonus question. This question is free points — all the students have to do is give me any answer, and I give them credit for it. The question is:

Name a woman scientist, in any discipline. What did she do?

Easy, right? And every year, the same person tops the list.

Scientist Number Percent
Marie Curie 21 44.7%
UMM Chemistry Faculty 7 14.9%
UMM Biology Faculty 5 10.6%
Rosalind Franklin 5 10.6%
Other Scientist 8 17.0%
none 1 2.1%

Other scientists included Jane Goodall, Martha Chase, Caroline Herschel, and my favorite, Mom — Chase, Herschel, and Franklin were all mentioned in my lectures. Marie Curie is not. One person neglected to give any answer (free points! You passed up free points!). Two people named Marie Curie, but had no idea what she had done.

The one interesting change I’ve noticed over the years is that despite her absurd lead, Marie Curie has been steadily dropping, and the students are increasingly aware that there are women teaching science in their other classes — and also, I’m happy to report, the ones who mentioned my fellow faculty are actually aware of what they do for research. Chemistry probably leads biology because these students have a full year of general chemistry before they take this course and are concurrently taking organic chemistry.

Next year, I plan to take the big step and ask how many can name a minority scientist — I’m kind of afraid that most of them will be totally stumped, because I really don’t pull out a big flag when I talk about these scientists, waving it and announcing “Hey! This person is a WOMAN! (or black, or Hispanic, or whatever)” during lecture. It’ll be interesting to see if the students are even aware that the other faculty person teaching half the sections of cell biology is native American…

Comments

  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Next year, I plan to take the big step and ask how many can name a minority scientist

    Most will name Neil deGrasse Tyson, betcha.

  2. Rich Woods says

    I don’t think it’s much of a surprise that Marie Curie is top of the list. Winning two Nobel prizes is a pretty significant achievement.

  3. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Oh, right Rob.

    I was thinking women minorities – a subset of the original question rather than a fully different question.

    But whether I interpreted too narrowly or not, I’m quite happy that when my kids ask me for a story and it has an astronaut, the astronaut has to be named “Jemma” after a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Jemison"certain someone I mae have mentioned a time or two.

  4. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Oh, right Rob.

    I was thinking women minorities – a subset of the original question rather than a fully different question.

    But whether I interpreted too narrowly or not, I’m quite happy that when my kids ask me for a story and it has an astronaut, the astronaut has to be named “Jemma” after a certain someone I mae have mentioned a time or two.

  5. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Rich Woods:

    .
    Winning two Nobel prizes is a pretty significant achievement.

    Pfft. I have 6. The trick is to pick on the economists, because the other disciplines are too numerate, and the peace prize winners make me feel bad for gambling.

  6. Trebuchet says

    Next year, I plan to take the big step and ask how many can name a minority scientist…

    Michio Kaku? (Runs and hides.)

  7. says

    No one mentions the Nobels. Descriptions of her work are pretty general — something about radioactivity, usually.

    It’s also surprising because every day for the last year, most of them are working with women faculty: biology and chemistry here are both roughly half women. At least, it surprises me that some sort of abstract knowledge that they probably got in high school about Marie Curie trumps the working experience of seeing active women scientists in their daily life.

  8. Rich Woods says

    @Crip Dyke #6:

    The trick is to pick on the economists, because the other disciplines are too numerate, and the peace prize winners make me feel bad for gambling.

    There’s something to economics other than gambling?

  9. cfieldb says

    There’s also the fact that she just has a very memorable name. Marie Curie. I’m surprised Jane Goodall is so low, for the same reason.

    If I saw that question I would kind of glibly assume you were looking for a historical figure, rather than a member of the university faculty.

  10. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    At least, it surprises me that some sort of abstract knowledge that they probably got in high school about Marie Curie trumps the working experience of seeing active women scientists in their daily life

    So much this.

    This was what I thought was the takeaway message when you have posted on this before.

    For me, it’s much the same as the unfortunately popular use of the term “hermaphrodite” as a label for (people living with a DSD)/(intersex folk). Despite being more common than Down’s, people treat people belonging to these categories as mythical beings, suitable to the etymology.

    “Lady Scientist? My goodness, that would be really, really bizarre. If someone were a LadyScientist, we certainly all would have heard about such a person, wouldn’t we? Therefore the question is asking for a notable and marked aberration from a normal state of non-existence. Therefore the question is not asking about my everyday life. The question is asking about near-mythic figures, oh, right! Marie Curie. No idea what she did, but she was probably a RealScientist based on the fuss they made over her.”

    This thinking relies on known heuristics (known in the psychological literature, even quantified in some circumstances) that lead to fallacious thought processes in other contexts, but it’s distressingly common. What is needed to get a mind started down this path is merely the idea that being a woman scientist is an unusual thing instead of an everyday thing. Once that occurs, the brain no longer looks to everyday experience for the answer.

    It’s just like asking someone to ID an intersex anyprofession. We assume that the intersexuality is related to the profession, and start generating all kinds of nonsense.

    Much easier and simpler to simply draw a venn diagram (all women (all) scientists) to identify all those in the middle. But that’s not how the brain works.

    Thus stereotypes and sexism generally not only fucks us up on the surface, it produces GIGO reasoning that only makes everything worse.

  11. devnll says

    “It’ll be interesting to see if the students are even aware that the other faculty person teaching half the sections of cell biology is native American…”

    And yet, wouldn’t that in a sense be the ideal? That they didn’t even notice? Ask them if they know who the other cell biology teacher is, and if they have any idea what his area of research is. Then ask them if they knew he was Native American.

    It’s sad that departments still have to pay attention to the gender and race of their applicants in order to prevent discrimination and encourage a move towards equality, but once they’ve gotten the job I would _hope_ it would cease to be paid any attention to by anyone.

  12. says

    devnll:

    And yet, wouldn’t that in a sense be the ideal? That they didn’t even notice? Ask them if they know who the other cell biology teacher is, and if they have any idea what his area of research is. Then ask them if they knew he was Native American.

    Speaking as someone who is half Oglala Lakota, no, it wouldn’t be ideal. We get disappeared on a constant basis as it stands. What would be ideal is not only if people noticed the teacher was Indian, but knew what tribe/nation, rather than using the generic “native American”.

    Also, why are you assuming this teacher is a he?

  13. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Rich Woods, #9:

    There’s something to economics other than gambling?

    It’s a little appreciated fact that all of economics is an extended body of work attempting to explain to a spouse why it was totally reasonable to have (made that bet)/(given money to that guy) despite the hideously bad consequences that reasonable people either would have or certainly could have seen coming a mile away.

    Economists thus have a disproportionate love for the word “counterintuitive”.

  14. Rich Woods says

    @Crip Dyke #15:

    It’s a little appreciated fact that all of economics is an extended body of work attempting to explain to a spouse why it was totally reasonable to have (made that bet)/(given money to that guy) despite the hideously bad consequences that reasonable people either would have or certainly could have seen coming a mile away.

    Heh. So when Publilius Syrus intoned “Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it”, he was trying to persuade Publilia that he really hadn’t paid too much for that nubile kitchen slave…

  15. ChasCPeterson says

    What did she do?

    Phrasing it like that, in the past tense, sends a clear message that you’re loking for somebody famous and dead.

  16. Becca Stareyes says

    It’s sad that departments still have to pay attention to the gender and race of their applicants in order to prevent discrimination and encourage a move towards equality, but once they’ve gotten the job I would _hope_ it would cease to be paid any attention to by anyone.

    Well, it helps show that science is not something only white, presumed-heterosexual-and-cisgender men do. Which is why one pays attention to it in hiring. Hiring committees don’t ensure the department has an appropriately uniform sample of ‘last digit of social security numbers’, or that the birthday distributions reflects the general population, because ultimately, those things rarely/never matter. People do notice a department’s ratio of women to men, and can serve as an indicator of problems if it is off the field norm*.

    * Not all departments with a sex ratio weighted towards men (relative to the field) have problems, but the ones that have problems with sexism probably do skew more male than those that don’t.

  17. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Also, when [mistakenly?] purchasing a Cassat knock-off and trying to get it insured at the value of a genuine Cassat, the economist submits a receipt as proof of multi-million dollar value.

    ==========

    3 economists go bow hunting. They see a doe, who looks back at their navy-pinstribe camouflage with equanimity. The first draws the bow and sends an arrow screaming through the air 17′ left of the doe. The second draws and sends an arrow screaming through the air 17′ right of the doe.

    The third screams excitedly:

    Yes! Dead center!

  18. Rich Woods says

    @Crip Dyke #20:

    The third screams excitedly:

    Yes! Dead center!

    Or, more commonly nowadays, denounces the first archer as hopelessly Marxist and invalidates the shot.

  19. Sili says

    The Japanese guy who discovered QED on his own? Or the guy with the mesons?

    Yes, I meant to put it that way. I can’t recall their names.

    Junk DNA was Japanese guy as well.

  20. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    In response to Chas’ criticism, [which I believe is well founded, though not at all incompatible with my supposition about thought processes that may lead to wanting to name someone famous (and possibly dead) for other reasons]

    I would just like to say that one way one way it could be rewritten positively is:

    Name a woman scientist and describe that scientist’s field of study

  21. Nentuaby says

    The minority question offs going to get you a whole lot of George Washington Carver, I expect.

  22. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Rich Woods:

    The Marxists are the ones who assert that they can best aim if they aren’t distracted by the possibility of getting any of the resulting meat.

    This is why Marxists are most heavily criticized when they actually hit the poor deer. Especially since the other economists insist that they had done all the important and hard work of bracketing the poor thing.

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    Sili @24:

    The Japanese guy who discovered QED on his own? Or the guy with the mesons?

    Tomonaga and Yukawa? Do I win anything?

    I’d have gone with Satyendra Nath Bose.

  24. says

    I rarely had any inkling if my college science profs actually did research or published papers. Of course, I wasn’t a science major, and I rarely took more than one course from any professor in that department. Maybe it would have been different if I were taking more advanced courses.

  25. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Nentuaby, #26:

    Over NdGT? I think not. Which one has more Daily Show appearances, I ask you!

    But for me, I clearly have a NASA bias. Mae Jemmison and Franklin Chang-Diaz are the two that came to mind even before NdGT. Unfortunately for Franklin Chang-Diaz, I used to misremember his first name as “Michael” (and still want to misspell his last name “Chang-Dias”), I think the first name thing is because i was familiar with the work of Michael Chang, who, while an atmospheric chemist, has little to do with NASA and nothing that I can tell to do with Franklin Chang-Diaz.

    But I don’t have a great memory for names, I mostly focus on the substance, knowing if I understand the substance I can always refind the researcher (this has only gotten easier – dramatically so – since the invention of teh google). So I can picture a North African linguist and remember things about her work, I can totally visualize a video segment of an argentinian paleontologist talking about a certain expedition, etc., etc.

    But for me to remember the names in an exam environment would probably require a bit too much nym-memory for my brain’s capabilities. I have to fall back on “good scientist AND fucking awesome” which is a little easier to demonstrate when you’ve strapped your share of 2 kilotons to your back and taking a hundred tons of it with you into space.

    Or when you slam Bill O’Reilly’s ignorance on the Daily Show. Either is a sufficient cause.

  26. Rich Woods says

    Every year, in one of my biology core classes, I slip in a common bonus question.

    I really do think this is a good thing; it gets people thinking, even at a late stage in a course. There just seems to be too much emphasis now on universities providing education primarily with employment and the economy in mind, rather than a rounded education for its own benefit. In the UK, for example, we have to deal with government ministers like this:

    http://www.theguardian.com/education/2011/mar/22/david-willetts-students-career-choices

    And it’s not like he’s lived up to his nickname of ‘Two Brains':

    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/archives/9375

  27. Holms says

    I too did not read that as ‘woman AND minority’, so I would go with Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.

    Also, I think Chas is on the money: the question being phrased with past tense leads naturally to student assuming you want a name from the past. It is inevitable that the most famous female scientist of all would lead the pack.

  28. Rich Woods says

    @colnago80 #32:

    Lisa Randall?

    Yes — I’ll add a vote for her. I read her book ‘Warped Passages’ about three years ago, and that was probably the closest my brain has ever come to melting in the struggle to keep up. I attended a talk she gave a year later, but thankfully she kept the subject matter to a level which a mere mortal could comprehend.

    Then again, she could be wrong in everything she said. But I’ve got no way of working that out!

  29. drken says

    Well, you asked them to name one female scientist, so most of them are just going to write down the first one that pops into their head. I’m sure the scientists at UMM (of all genders) are quite accomplished, but your students have probably know about Curie since grade school. Ask them to name 5 and I’m sure you’ll see more of your colleagues on that. I’m am surprised of the lack of love (pun intended) for Virginia Johnson. Your students need to watch more premium cable ;).

  30. Anders says

    One point here in the students defense, I think the word “scientist” here might be a bit .. distracting.. for the student, for example, if I was to “name a male scientist” I’d go for a famous one, to secure the exam point.. Well, how about… Einstein, famous scientist, right? well he did work in a patent office and may not have had the credentials of “scientist” in the heat of the exam moment, I’m not quite sure.. what about Darwin? Naturalist.. or scientist? Benjamin Franklin, scientist or political philosopher? The guy who teaches my chemistry class? well he has a PHD , does that make him a “scientist”? my point is that the term “scientist” is rather loosely defined, and while all the people I’ve mentioned falls in the “spirit of science” category, on an exam question you might want to go with a safe bet, Marie Curie is popularliry known as “scientist”, so its a safe bet. My 2 cents. Its still a good exam question, and interesting result, keep at it!

  31. dianne says

    Just wondering how you’d react to a (female) student answering the question: “Me” and “passed my organic chemistry class”? Assuming they did pass o chem, of course.

  32. roharmon says

    Speaking as an astronomer, Henrietta Swan Leavitt would be an awesome choice. Unlocking the key to the cosmic distance ladder is a pretty good accomplishment, I’d say. Or we could go with Annie Jump Cannon (what a great name!), who pioneered the modern stellar classification system. Or maybe Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin, whose PhD thesis established that all normal stars are made mostly of hydrogen, paving the way to our understanding of cosmic elemental abundances. Then there’s Vera Rubin, whose studies of galaxy rotation curves played a major role in establishing that most of the matter in the universe is “dark matter” instead of the stuff we are made of. Or how about Sandra Faber, who among other achievements co-discovered the “Great Attractor” that affects the motion of all the galaxies in our part of the universe. And there are so many others I’m failing to mention. I need to add a question like that to my intro astronomy finals.

  33. typecaster says

    There’s also the question of whether someone is properly considered a scientist just because they have a technical degree, or do technical work. I greatly respect design engineers (I am one), but I’m not sure I’d classify them as scientists. Most of the obvious NASA candidates (for instance, Dr. Tracy Dyson, materials science, or Dr. Ron McNair, astrophysics) did research while getting their degrees, but I honestly don’t know if their work at NASA involves the actual practice of science, as opposed to applying their high expertise to application-oriented developments. It may be a nit, but these sorts of details matter.

  34. Rich Woods says

    @Anders #41:

    my point is that the term “scientist” is rather loosely defined

    You’re right. One oblique definition (I can’t remember where I heard it, but it may well have been here) is ‘You can call yourself a scientist only after other scientists start describing you as one’. Which of course contains the implication that it’s quite possible to stop being a scientist (Linus Pauling comes to mind).

    Heh heh. That very nicely takes me back to my first comment on this thread!

  35. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I don’t consider someone a scientist merely because they have a degree – or even because they have a degree and made it into space. Mae Jemmison certainly has done experimental physiology, however, and Chang-Diaz might be more engineering than most scientists, but he’s developing a theoretical understanding and predictive model for performance of VASIMIR type engines.

    Even if the goal is to put together an engine and not to put together a peer-reviewed article, when you perform materials and performance experiments and then characterize the effects, the fact that you use the result to help choose a non-ablative heat shielding does not negate the science of the earlier steps.

    Plus a lot of those persons did good science as a main focus before being asked to apply that knowledge to a particular problem. If you spend 12 years doing science and then 12 more engineering solutions that rely on that science, I don’t think you’ve lost your scientist car.

    I notice, by way of comparison, that Marie Curie hasn’t published anything since at least 1972, but she’s still got a membership in the scientist club.

  36. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I don’t think you’ve lost your scientist car.

    Is this a freudian plea for a fuel-cell powered Speed Buggy that roams the Gobi studying geology in order to point out promising formations to its paleontologist passengers instead of solving crimes as an automotive knock-off of Scooby Doo?

    Until I get my scientist car, we may never know.

  37. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Darwin? Naturalist.. or scientist?

    This is the question I always have about Fanny Bullock-Workman.

    She was an adventurer, clearly. She was a cartographer certainly. She was a geographer probably. But was she a scientist or was she just a bad ass with a great mind who reported back on her adventures?

    Naturalist was, for quite a long time, just exactly that. The scientific value of reporting back on the adventures depended on training and the quality of the mind in question, but shooting a rare bird and paying someone 2 pence to carry it 300 miles to the nearest major port was not distinguished as a different scientific enterprise from systematic observations over time.

    Fanny Bullock (-Workman, if you insist, though she did go by each version at different times) tended not to be someone who repeatedly went to the same area.

    So, adventure-naturalist or scientific-naturalist?

    It’s kind of a judgement call, but I’m inclined to give her the science cred.

  38. Rich Woods says

    @Crip Dyke 48:

    I notice, by way of comparison, that Marie Curie hasn’t published anything since at least 1972, but she’s still got a membership in the scientist club.

    One way to catalogue the duration of human civilisation might be to note for how long names and achievements live on. In the same way that so much of prehistory is lost to us (at least in terms of individuals), we may well become nothing more than a bunch of broken artefacts to posthistorical humans.

    Of course that would make history a very relative term, but then it seems to be generally treated as such already.

  39. says

    Everyone always leaves out my own field of Cognitive Psychology, which has enjoyed the work of a large proportion of women: Elizabeth Loftus, Margaret Intons-Peterson, Anne Treisman, Susan Carey, Spelke, Gibson, and more.

  40. drken says

    If you’re creating hypotheses, testing them, and then analyzing the results, you’re a scientist. If you do so while identifying as female, you’re a female scientist. You don’t need a fancy lab in a research university. You don’t even need a degree. A scientist is somebody who’s doing science. It’s right there in the name. Some are better than others, of course, but he didn’t ask for good ones.

  41. Rich Woods says

    @drken 54:

    If you’re creating hypotheses, testing them, and then analyzing the results, you’re a scientist. If you do so while identifying as female, you’re a female scientist.

    And age shouldn’t be a barrier either. This girl, her schoolmates, and their mentors qualify:

    https://www.ted.com/speakers/amy_o_toole.html

  42. robert79 says

    I must admit, Marie Curie is the first name that popped in my head. After some thought though, I think I would answer Ada Lovelace. Does she count? for some reason many people do not consider mathematics “true science”.

  43. Rich Woods says

    @robert79 #58:

    for some reason many people do not consider mathematics “true science”.

    *speechless*

  44. tbtabby says

    I name Sara Baker. Became a doctor in an era when it was considered unthinkable for woman to be anything other than a nurse, turned one of the worst infant mortality rates in America into one of the most enviable, worked alongside Joseph Lister, helped to apprehend Typhoid Mary twice, and her ideas on preventative care moved medical science forward by decades. If you ever doubt that one person can make a difference in the world, read her story. And since the XKCD strip’s already been mentioned, here’s Kate Beaton’s tribute to her.

  45. says

    While it’s very true that the profile of women scientists needs improving, this question needs a control. I’d be willing to bet that if you asked for a male scientist, in any discipline, you’d get a “celebrity scientist” topping the list (e.g. Einstein).

    The really sad answer on that list was the “none”…

    (Another variable to consider – a little hard, given the format – would be how long it takes to come up with the answer)

  46. Anders says

    Yeah,”none” is certainly a sad answer, no matter the circumstances, but some students show up just to sign their name and leave (intentionally fail, but marked as having shown up at the exam), I dont know if thats the case in the US, but here its a policy thing where you can get a second chance thing in certain courses or what not (I’ve never examined the policy because I’ve never done or considered doing it)

  47. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Robert Watkins:

    I would change it for a single year only, giving two extra credit questions.

    Tell people that the bonus points will be proportional to two things: your total number of answers, and how your # of answers compares to the median # of answers on that question.

    We have done this experiment in the past here in threads where people are encouraged to name 10 women scientists and 10 men scientists without resorting to google, etc.

    The people who tried it uniformly came up with more men scientists and, worse, came up with them much more quickly and easily.

    While there are fewer women published in the sciences than men, the number of notable women still exceeds 10. Limited arbitrarily like that, there is no reason for someone to be unable to fail to come up with 10 just as easily for either of these 2 genders…that does not include the effects of sexism.

    Me, going off the top of my head?

    Joy Adamson
    Jane Goodall
    Dian Fossey…those 3 go together in my brain

    Rosalin Franklin
    [I would put Cecilia Payne Gaposhkin with her, but I did look her up earlier today to remember her name] as someone notably ripped off in the recognition department

    Stephanie Kwolek as someone who did the saving lives thing in a way not expected for women

    Florence Nightingale for pioneering statistics, information display (thank her for every bad pie chart ever), and, frankly, epidemiology.

    My friend Jennifer for her work in astrophysics

    Oooh! another Jennnifer – Clack.

    Hypatia for quite a number of things.

    The aforementioned Mae Jemmison

    Women on this blog, like Esteleth.

    Bloggers on this network, like Dana Hunter.

    The woman who was my mother in-(well, out-)law when I was married.

    That’s easily over 10 I think, but it took me a few minutes.

    men?

    NdGT
    Hawking
    Penrose
    Gould
    My dad (though primarily a physician)
    Robert Bakker
    PZ
    Gregory S Paul – did he do anything that was “science”? I thought so, but now I’m not sure.
    GW Carver
    Marie Curie’s husband
    Watson
    Crick
    Crommunist is doing public health, but is he doing public health research or applied public health? I’m not sure.

    That’s gotta be about 10 and took me at least a minute less.

  48. says

    One problem I’d have with the “minority” category is that, although I can think of a number of Chinese, Japanese and Indian scientists, I’m pretty sure at least some of them lived and worked in China/Japan/India. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough of their biographies to know which in most cases, so that moves most of them out of my potential answer list.

  49. alexanderz says

    Crip Dyke @66:
    There maybe more than 10 scientist, but I’ll be damned if I could name more than two or so. Particularly if you only name real, published, scientific method using scientists (no Hypatia for you! And Ada Lovelace is problematic). For me it doesn’t matter whether they’re men or women – I can’t remember names for the life of me (example: if it weren’t for Google I wouldn’t know Marie Curie’s husband’s name). Especially if it’s in the heat of an exam.

    “Tell people that the bonus points will be proportional to two things: your total number of answers, and how your # of answers compares to the median # of answers on that question.”

    This is just wrong! Not only I have to play against my memory but also against what I perceive to be other people’s recollections? How about doing something simple: Make two exams, one of which asks for two male names and one for two female names. Oh, and define “scientist” in a simple manner (let’s say, anyone with a PHD since 1900). Lets see how people make their list now.

  50. inflection says

    I could name many women mathematicians currently active just in my subfield, because I am interested in their work.

    Some of these women are minorities — Ae Ja Yee, Winnie Li.

    I would be hard-pressed to name any African or African American mathematicians who are particularly famous, with the exception of Yahya Ould Hamidoune (who worked in number theory in the field of sumfree sequences). Hmm… wiki’ing, I see that one of those mathematicians I personally knew (Augustin Banyaga) is more famous than I knew of.

  51. dianne says

    How about Martha McClintock, the first person of any gender to demonstrate human pheromones? Or Mary Lyon, after whom Lyonization is named?

    Next time ask for up to 5 women scientists at 0.5 points per scientist, so that your students can’t stop at Marie Curie. (Who, I must admit, probably would be the first person I thought of when asked for a woman scientist…but not the only person I could think of.)

  52. Rich Woods says

    @alexanderz #69:

    Oh, and define “scientist” in a simple manner (let’s say, anyone with a PHD since 1900).

    That’s not simple, it’s simplistic. If you redefine ‘scientist’ to exclude people like Newton and Darwin (two names picked purely off the top of my head, but I bet you can guess why), then you may as well describe those meeting your selection criteria as ‘whabblegabblists’ (or any other term which takes your Saturday night fancy).

    For what it’s worth, I’m shit at names and faces too, so Google is my friend when it comes to putting names to semi-remembered ideas and phrases. I could easily meet part of Crip Dyke’s challenge by naming ten famous male scientists, but I’d struggle to get past half a dozen famous female scientists for the other part. And I’m ashamed about that, because it’s not like I don’t read enough and take enough of an interest to stand a good chance — which of course illustrates her point. Dodging the point by suggesting dubious criteria (just two people, too!) doesn’t help.

  53. dianne says

    We have done this experiment in the past here in threads where people are encouraged to name 10 women scientists and 10 men scientists without resorting to google, etc.

    How notable do they have to be? Because if I can include myself and my collaborators I’ve got 10 right there. If I include my partner’s collaborators, I can probably come up with 10 minority women scientists.

  54. Bob Dowling says

    Never mind the details of the question. What’s the point of a “free points” question?

  55. zekehoskin says

    Why not ask for two women scientists? I admit that when I was an undergrad, the names of Lise Meitner, Rosalind Franklin, and Cecilia Payne would not have come immediately to mind. No doubt there are others who certainly would have shared in the Nobels covering the work they did, if only they’d had convex plumbing.

  56. ImaginesABeach says

    I first read your post on this topic about 4 years ago. I happened to have 4 6th grade Girl Scouts in my car later that evening, and I asked them to name a woman scientist. They named 9 in about 30 seconds. I take this as indicating progress is being made.

  57. alexanderz says

    Rich Woods @72:
    It’s intentionally simplistic, because the point is to talk about What Is Science, but to compare roosters of names. You have to make your question exceptionally clear if you want to avoid needless headaches. For example:
    Are ancient inventors scientists? How about ancient philosophers? How about people who are famous, yet none of their work has survived (Hypatia)? How about people whose contribution/innovation is hotly disputed (Ada Lovelace)?

    You just have to focus your question in the most objective way possible. Otherwise you get people putting in Democritus as the father of the atom theory.

  58. Rey Fox says

    I always have to add Lynn Margulis to these threads.

    (her HIV denialism must not endear her to folks around here)

  59. chigau (違う) says

    Bob Dowling #74
    The point of a “free points” question is to relieve stress a tiny bit.
    Undergraduates writing their finals are a pretty tightly wound bunch.

  60. Rich Woods says

    @alexanderz #78:

    OK, I accept your point now, though it didn’t strike home from your earlier comment (in my defence I have to say I opened a bottle of wine a bit earlier this evening than usual!). But I’d have to counter with the suggestion that before the Enlightenment and the centuries-slow recognition of what now is seen as the scientific method, shouldn’t people who were approximating that method deserve recognition as scientists, even if you want to categorise them as “early scientists” (to generate a term)? Newton’s work on his eponymous Laws should count, shouldn’t it, even if he personally was an obnoxious bastard who was steeped in an extreme form of religion (even for those days) and in weird ideas (seen from our vantage point) about alchemy and its figurative droppings?

  61. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Dianne:

    I think we’ve done the experiment twice before, but maybe it was only once. I have done the experiment with folks in other contexts.

    In those previous contexts, we didn’t say anything about how famous one had to be to qualify – there is something very special about being able to say that my dad, though initially a clinician, turned to research because he thought he could better manage and heal disease with new treatments and protocols. He never left clinical work, really, but doing treatment research is always a mix of both.

    So, yes, you can count yourself and collaborators. I like things to be somewhat verifiable (if your whole list is made up of “friends” and you are non-specific about their fields, even if you really do know those people, do you know them as scientists? Or do you just know that they teach psychology (or whatever) and assume that some research must be going on?

    Except for myself, I generally allow people who did do original research that made a real contribution to a field even if they did not do research for a large part of a career. My own research was probably important in some senses, but most of what I ended up contributing was a post-research methodological critique that was discouraging the drawing of certain conclusions from my research. If I had been better trained from the get go, I would never have engaged in the research methodology I originally undertook. The fact that it worked for other circumstances did not mean it was extendable to the context in which I worked. The fact that samples aren’t random doesn’t always make research valueless (I don’t think it rendered mine valueless) but I do think that it makes it difficult to use. In the case of my research, people kept putting it to completely invalid uses by generalizing from the data in ways that really, really weren’t justified from the research. When I couldn’t get people to stop doing it, I dropped the research project and pretty much left research behind entirely.

    Am I a scientist? I’ve published in professional journals, but these are not peer-reviewed in the same sense as a scientific journal. Moreover, the whole episode lasted less than 4 years of my life. Is that enough to make me a scientist?

    If you get your PhD at 45 after a midlife crisis and don’t do independent research until you’re 50, are you a scientist? What if you get your PhD @45, but don’t do any real independent research until 50, and die of a stroke @53? Or retire at 62? What if your contributions to a field are largely, like mine, methodological?

    I’m generous with this stuff, in part because the point is to get people to think of women as scientists. I can also name 3 intersex scientists and I don’t know how many but at least 4 or 5 trans* scientists. So I don’t think of science as something only done by men and women. This is a good thing. If that came because I know such scientists personally instead of because Christine Jorgensen became the most brilliant and influential marine biologist of her age, I actually think that’s even better.

    =================

    OT: I sometimes ask people from the US or Canada to name as many indigenous peoples as they can, suggesting 12 as a goal. The names are all around us, and yet they generally give up before naming 2. Its pathetic, really, but also horrifying. There was a time when I could name at least one indigenous North American people for every letter of the english alphabet, though I’d probably forget some of the rarer letters now (but C and A and M would get 5-10 each). The sad thing is that even though I know *something* of the existence of such people, like trying to name the field of Marie Curie sometimes is too much to ask people who know the name Marie Curie, for too many of these peoples I know next to nothing save a name, a vague geographic profile that might-or-might-not be territory to which they were forcibly removed, and a guess at cultural affiliation with other peoples.

    Even further OT: Also, you can really cheat at the alphabet one because some that are traditionally spelled with a common letter have an alternate spelling or alternate name beginning with a lest-frequently used first letter.

  62. chigau (違う) says

    CD #83
    Your “US or Canada indigenous peoples” question is really kinda tricky.
    Band?
    Nation?
    Linguistic group?
    Self-identified or gummint-classified?

    I’d like to talk about this.
    Shall we meet in the T-dome?

  63. alexanderz says

    Rich Woods @81:
    I agree that Newton was a scientist, his personal beliefs are irrelevant. I also think that Hypatia and Lovelace were scientists, I only use them as an example because Crip Dyke mentioned them.

  64. Rich Woods says

    @Crip Dyke #83:

    What if your contributions to a field are largely, like mine, methodological?

    Personally I think those are just as important, since they may well lay ground upon which other people can build (although of course nothing is guaranteed). This is what pisses me off about governments which say they want to direct funding towards visible goals and investment returns. As one person responded (and I really wish I could remember his or her name), “If I knew what the result would be, I couldn’t call it research”.

    But to step back a bit, it’s perhaps a bit like the different branches of astrophysics. You need observations and you need theory; without either you can’t really expect much success.

  65. Rich Woods says

    @alexanderz #85:

    I agree that Newton was a scientist, his personal beliefs are irrelevant. I also think that Hypatia and Lovelace were scientists, I only use them as an example because Crip Dyke mentioned them.

    Fair enough, but with this you’re not advancing any argument about about your arbitrary cut-off point.

  66. Bicarbonate says

    When I read PZ’s question and imagined seeing it on an exam, I felt immediate panic. Came up with not a single name. Then thought, o.k., how ’bout men scientists. Nothing. Nada. Is just not a file my brain maintains. After reading the comments and thinking about it I realized I have them filed away as anthropologists, biologists, geologists, paleontologists and so on. Then thought about the ones I know personally, none of whom would I ever spontaneously call “scientist” but rather “someone doing research in X at Y”. Then after reading Crip Dyke’s reflections, wondered if I could call myself one. Then remembered specifically wanting to be “a scientist” when I was about 5 or 6, dreaming of my adult self in a white lab coat and, curiously, of myself as a man (I’m not a man), like the scientists in the illustrations of one of my first books. I can still remember the butterflies on the cover, the diagram of a volcano which I spent many hours pondering and a picture of William Beebe descending into the depths of the ocean in a bathysphere.

    Then of course comes the realization that my second daughter meets all of the criteria one can imagine for “scientist”. But I don’t think of her as an -ist of any kind.

  67. cartomancer says

    “Minority” scientist is a rather unspecific term. You’d have to tighten it up a bit. Do you mean a scientist who belongs to an ethnic group that would be considered a minority in America, or one who belongs to an ethnic group that is a minority in their own country? An Arabic scientist who lives and works in Iran would qualify for the first category, for instance, but not for the second. Would Alhacen or Al-Khwarizmi or Al-Kindi be acceptable?

    Also, what are you counting as an ethnic minority? Would PZ Myers count, because he has Scandinavian ancestry where most Americans do not (though large numbers of Minnesotans do?) Would a Scottish scientist working in England count? Would an English scientist working in America count? Or should it really be an ethnic minority that is generally lumbered with some kind of cultural discrimination? Would Jewish scientists count? Or would they only count if they worked in places where Jews were considered an ethnic minority, rather than in places where they were considered part of the majority?

  68. watry says

    The first two names that come to my mind are Rosalind Franklin and Mary Leakey. If I were writing the exam, I’d probably go with Franklin, because there’s this weird tendency to define anthropology of all subfields as not being “real” or “hard” science (your mileage may vary, I may just have run into a lot of very snobby people), and likely being desperate for points I wouldn’t risk them on the professor’s opinion.

    Mary Leakey is freaking awesome, though.

  69. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @cartomancer:

    Do you mean a scientist who belongs to an ethnic group that would be considered a minority in America, or one who belongs to an ethnic group that is a minority in their own country? An Arabic scientist who lives and works in Iran would qualify for the first category, for instance, but not for the second.

    :whisper: Pssst. An arabic scientist who lives and works in Iran is most definitely the second.:/whisper:

  70. psanity says

    Bicarbonate @88:

    But exactly. Given PZ’s description of his department, I think it would be interesting to ask the students, “Name a scientist you know personally who is a) a woman and/or b) a minority.” On an exam, I can only imagine that causing a total brain freeze. But, when the brain spins down to “Who do I know?”, and they get it, there’s a great Aha! moment of understanding they’re surrounded by scientists and role models of all sorts.

  71. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    there’s a great Aha! moment of understanding they’re surrounded by scientists and role models of all sorts.

    This, psanity. This is exactly why I welcome the “my mom” or “my friend Shannon” responses even when they are less verifiable. I want people to get that this isn’t something of legend (Oh, yeah, when women are really exceptional, they become scientists and win nobel prizes), but something every day (oh, yeah, when women are interested they become scientists and do the same wading through paperwork and data waiting for something significant to happen that any other scientist might do). My mom does this. My friend does this. When I was growing up, this friend of my mom’s that would come over for tea sometimes would tell us stories about animals, but now I remember that she was telling stories about the primates in her lab, but I didn’t think of her as a scientist b/c the stories were funny.

    Those are the things that really change how people view the nature of women in science.

  72. A. R says

    My definition of “scientist” is an individual who actively conducts research with the intent of adding to the sum of human knowledge, or to improve human life, and does so using the scientific method.

  73. dianne says

    This is an ongoing problem and not just with PZ’s students. One of the reasons why women don’t get promoted in science is that the people (mostly men) on search committees and promotions committees simply don’t think of them. If they’re looking for, say, a department head and start tossing names around, they’ll almost all be men. If someone brings up a woman, they’ll frequently say, “yeah, she’s good”, but they won’t think of her on their own. And, of course, if asked to formally consider which women (or minorities) are suitable candidates, they’ll roll their eyes and get all insulted because how could you DARE suggest that they might have a bias.

  74. cartomancer says

    @ #91

    Yes, he would be. I think that’s what I said. My question was whether an Arab scientist working in Iran would count as a “minority” scientist for the purposes of this putative test question. He’s not a minority in his own country, but he does belong to a group considered a minority in America, where the test is being administered and where the students come from.

    Is the purpose of the question to test awareness of scientists from a breadth of different ethnicities or to raise awareness of scientists who have been in societally disadvantageous positions? Both seem like valuable objectives, but each requires a different interpretation of the question. If it’s just ethnicity you’re after then Al-Kindi or Brahmagupta would do fine, but if they have to be societally disadvantaged by it then neither of those two would count.

  75. alexanderz says

    @Rich Woods #87
    My criterion is useful only for the exam, as a way to focus a student and get good data, not as anything else. Ask yourself this, if I were to tell you to write an essay about anything, how long would that take you? And if I were to tell you to write an essay about your desk?

    Besides, there is one huge advantage to my criteria: It levels the field to some degree. As you yourself saw, by eliminating Darwin and Mendel and Newton and others, I reduce the pool of available men more than that of available women. I’m creating a situation where the answers should show less bias towards men.
    Let’s be honest, judging by both cultural and scientific impact very few people could compete with the likes of Newton or Darwin. Curie? Stephen Hawking? Men? Women? Nobody comes close. This is why it’s good to cut to modern times where there is less idolization and more female scientists to choose from.

  76. cartomancer says

    Sigh… very well. Say Iraq then. But my point is still the same – the distinction still needs to be specified.

  77. dianne says

    It’d be interesting to do a control by asking for one male scientist as well and see how often you got Einstein.

  78. A. R says

    Yes, I would want to see the control. Shame one you PZ! Bad scientist, doing experiments without proper controls! :)

  79. alexanderz says

    @chigau (違う) #102
    The Iraqis I know do consider themselves to be Arabs. Iranians aren’t, but Iraqis definitely are. Historically, Arabian ties with that region of Mesopotamia go before the Muslim occupation and are ethnic, cultural and linguistic.

  80. cartomancer says

    Of course Arab does not necessarily equal Iraqi. I never implied that. But a three-quarters majority of the population of modern Iraq (unless my checking beforehand has completely failed me) is of Mesopotamian Arab ethnicity. Hence a scientist of this ethnicity would not be in a minority there. I was thinking particularly of Al-Kindi (who was born in Basra to a people originally from the Yemen), but the example doesn’t matter nearly so much as the principle.

  81. chigau (違う) says

    alexander #104
    Thanks.
    I’m thinking that ‘Arab’ is as useful a term as ‘Chinese’ or ‘Indian’ (in North America).

  82. Maureen Brian says

    alexanderz,

    A significant proportion of the population of Iraq are Kurds. They do not regard themselves as Arabs, nor do their fellow Kurds in the adjacent countries.

    You claim, at 97, to be levelling the playing field by saying “only those who got a PhD and that after 1900″ but that won’t do. For most of the time since 1900 it’s been, say, ten times as hard for a woman to get to PhD level as for a man and very probably even harder for visible ethnic minorities.

    You’re not levelling. You are over-simplifying because many of the people you rule out did good science. My professor at Leeds was regarded as one of the very great statisticians: he had an MSc.

    It is worthwhile to keep on asking ourselves what we mean by “a scientist” but no true scientist would be misled by what is in part a social distinction, a marker of prior wealth or status or even gender.

  83. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Jebus Christ,
    Not only are people only hearing a tiny portion of the history of science when they ignore women scientists, they are also missing out on some great stories.
    How about Emmy Noether? Lise Meitner?
    How about Ada Lovelace?
    How about going back all the way to Hypatia?
    Or how about Hedy Lamar, if you want someone glamorous?
    Or if you want a more recent example–how about Natalie Portman, whose Bacon-Erdos number is 7 (only 1 higher than Sagan)?!

    Now this is from the half of humanity that for all practical purposes was forbidden access to higher education until the middle of the last century?

    As for minorities, how about Luis Alvarez, who even when he was born in 1911 came from a distinguished scientific family?

    Science enriches all who embrace it.

  84. Routemaster says

    Karl S at 108: I think I can see a couple of slight mistakes in your otherwise closely-argued contribution.

    1. You appear to be posting to the wrong blog. I’m sure PZ will welcome you with enthusiasm but PC myers (the Police Constable with an e e cummings obsession?) may miss you.

    2. By coincidence you’ve duplicated the Wikipedia Jewish Scientists category, letter A. You might want guard against this happening, as less charitable people might think you lazy and stupid.

    3. Were I to engage with you thesis less closely, I might read it as being a bit racist, so you might want to rephrase.

  85. mykroft says

    Another obligatory XKCD , a bit more focused on Marie Curie.

    I remember hearing about Madam Curie in high school (oh, so long ago). The fact that she was a woman scientist was the point of the whole discussion, I think. Kind of like when we talked about George Washington Carver. They were ground breakers in their time.

    There is something to be said for remembering those who succeeded despite the rigid stereotypes of their time. Being a woman and/or minority scientist is not that unusual now, but our culture still tends to minimize, dismiss, discourage or harass them. They become invisible, because to acknowledge them reduces the power and prestige many of the privileged wish to hang on to.

  86. Rick Pikul says

    I have to admit that I would probably answer “Marie Curie” as is so common:

    She is someone who comes to mind quickly.
    I can actually remember her name[1].
    I can reliably spell her name correctly.

    One wonders what would happen if you changed the question to something like:

    “Name a female scientist other than Marie Curie.”
    or
    “Name a female scientist, extra bonus if your answer is unique.”

    Although the latter would need a bit more work to mark.

    [1] I am _lousy_ with names. There have been people I talked to virtually every day for months on end who’s name I could not remember.

  87. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    mykroft:

    I know you hate it when a little sib, metaphorical or otherwise, comes along and publicly cleans up a mistake of yours, but your link is borked.

    I think you mean this obligatory XKCD.

  88. David Marjanović says

    Name a woman scientist, in any discipline. What did she do?

    …Now, I’m not a native speaker. That means I’ve had the differences in usage between the past tense and the present perfect tense explained to me at length and in detail, have spent two years (IIRC) doing exercises on which tense to choose, and have more recently tutored kids who needed explicit explanations of such things. So, it’s possible that my view of this subject is actually oversimplified, too black-and-white.

    What I was taught is that “what did she do” means she’s not doing it anymore. It goes quite some way towards implying “dead and famous” or at least “retired and famous”.

    “What has she done” would mean she has done something that has consequences for the present, and would sort of imply that she did it very recently.

    Junk DNA was Japanese guy as well.

    Lots of Japanese in and around DNA-based phylogenetics. Off the top of my head: Kishino, Hasegawa, Yano, Kimura, Tamura, Nei, Ohno, Ota…

    for some reason many people do not consider mathematics “true science”.

    *speechless*

    I’m one of those people. Math is very different from science in a fundamental way: in science you disprove ideas by comparing them to observations, and demands for proof will be met with rolling eyes; in math you disprove or prove ideas by trying to deduce them from axioms. Science applies mathematics – medicine and engineering apply science.

    Gregory S Paul – did he do anything that was “science”?

    Like publishing peer-reviewed papers? Yes. Not many (like Bakker, BTW), and not as his day job (he’s a professional artist), but yes.

    Are ancient inventors scientists? How about ancient philosophers? How about people who are famous, yet none of their work has survived (Hypatia)?

    Hypatia was a Neoplatonist at a time when Neoplatonism was basically a religion. Other than that, as far as known to Wikipedia, she was a mathematician (because Neoplatonism held math in particularly high regard – and thought it way superior to empiricism), and an astronomer – which amounted to religion and mathematics again.

    In sum, not a scientist – keeping in mind that all her work is lost, though.

    I always have to add Lynn Margulis to these threads.

    (her HIV denialism must not endear her to folks around here)

    Indeed not. She’s a sad case: endosymbiosis as the origin of mitochondria and plastids is the one thing she was ever right about.

    It’s a big thing. She amassed most of the evidence that turned a somewhat fringe idea into textbook wisdom, and she did the popularization that led to the schoolbooks finally accepting it. But everything else I can think of she got wrong, and she died regarded as a crank. :-(

  89. David Marjanović says

    I know you hate it when a little sib, metaphorical or otherwise, comes along and publicly cleans up a mistake of yours

    ~:-|

  90. ChasCPeterson says

    Math is very different from science in a fundamental way: in science you disprove ideas by comparing them to observations, and demands for proof will be met with rolling eyes; in math you disprove or prove ideas by trying to deduce them from axioms. Science applies mathematics – medicine and engineering apply science.

    Thank you. I was going to raise my hand for that one, but had other things to do at the time.

  91. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Marjanovic:

    In the Sherlock Holmes stories, Arthur Conan Doyle created a couple of foils for his main character. One was the evil Moriarty. Less appreciated is Sherlock’s estranged older brother Mycroft. Mycroft was portrayed as being so ingenious that the british government often effectively (though secretly) deferred decision making on huge policy problems to him. Mycroft was the power behind the parliament. He was forever disappointed in Sherlock as having the brains and education to do something truly useful for the Empire as a whole (under Mycroft’s tutelage and supervision, of course) but insisting on engaging in dramatic solving of interesting but ultimately petty crimes. Moreover, Sherlock could keep a secret when he felt it necessary, but his view of “necessary” was dramatically different from Mycroft’s. That made him indiscreet, to Mycroft’s way of thinking. In short, he saw his younger brother as a constant thorn in his side.

    And yet, Holmes was also an occasional savior. Running a government is hard work, no matter how smart one may be. There were cockups. Occasionally a cockup was bad enough, time sensitive enough, and thorny enough that Mycroft would ask Holmes for help (or Holmes would find himself unintentionally embroiled in a case that could be traced back to a cockup under Mycroft). Mycroft’s role has frequently been expanded by the derivative creations of Holmes fans – the latest Sherlock BBC series being a case in point.

    i can’t remember if it was in the original Conan Doyle or not, but I read a bit where Mycroft laments the trouble all the incompetents in the British government create for him by failing to adequately carry out his brilliant plans. Sherlock attacks the feint: “I thought your little brother was the source of all your troubles.”* Mycroft ripostes: “Britain is full of my little brothers.”*

    While the individual exchange is forgettable, what is memorable is Mycroft loathing a need to rely on Sherlock, or anyone really, to properly execute his intentions.

    I wouldn’t necessarily expect such a tedious backstory to be available to any and all, but i would expect it to be known to someone who, quite modestly of course, chooses the ‘nym Mykroft.

    Hell, the general concept of Mycroft working in the background while relying on Sherlock in public was well enough known that you get things like this.

    So, long story short, it was an in joke.

    *quotes not exact – paraphrased from memory

  92. mykroft says

    @Crip Dyke,
    Thanks for pulling the correct link. It looked good when I posted it (right color), but I didn’t test it.

    Regarding the ‘nym, it’s actually represents two fictional entities. One is of course Sherlock Holmes’ older brother, but the other is a computer. My wife and I are both into sci-fi/fantasy and mysteries, and being a computer science nerd working with AI/machine learning methods it seemed a good fit.

  93. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    People who read Stephen Jay Gould may come up with Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire from the history of evolutionary research.

  94. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    I’ve always been a fan of Émilie du Châtelet. Unfortunately, she’s not terribly well-known, except for having slept with Voltaire.
    Her three most notable accomplishments were positing that the infrared had to exist and what the putative wavelengths and such were (she did this by splitting the spectrum using a prism, measuring the temperature of each piece, then sticking the thermometer on the end in the same intervals), being the first major French translator of Newton’s Principia (her translation is still the standard French one), and determining that the energy of light had to be proportional to the square of its speed times its mass. Einstein came along awhile later and worked the kinks out.
    Unfortunately, she died young, in childbirth.

  95. says

    Pretty much every time I read the word science I have to remind myself there’s a language barrier, as it doesn’t directly translate. The Finnish word tiede is more akin to German Wissenchaft than English science, but they are used interchangeably nevertheless.

  96. Rob Grigjanis says

    Esteleth @123:

    determining that the energy of light had to be proportional to the square of its speed times its mass

    Not the energy of light – she showed that the kinetic energy of massive objects was proportional to the square of their speed. Photons are massless.

  97. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Rob Grigjanis @125:

    Not the energy of light – she showed that the kinetic energy of massive objects was proportional to the square of their speed. Photons are massless.

    In my defense, I am sleepy.

  98. yubal says

    One of the true titans among female scientists (Emmy Noether) rarely makes it to one of those lists.

    This is very sad. All she did was working and teaching. And from what I hear, she must have been an outstanding teacher. Her work record speaks for itself. Outstanding.

  99. marksheffield says

    A cheat sheet for future students of PZ Myers.

    Read and know:
    Rita Levi-Montalcini
    Linda Buck
    Nancy Hopkins
    Gertrude Elion
    Barbara McClintock
    Susan Blackburn (who I’ve met and worked with!)

    and one that PZ can especially appreciate:
    Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard

  100. David Marjanović says

    Crip Dyke, thanks!

    On the differences of science and math, I managed to completely forget about parsimony: extremely important in science (there’s a lot of parsimony hidden in falsification), hardly even applicable to math.

    Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire

    That’s “Stephen”. The suitably old-fashioned form of “Stephanie” was Étiennette.

    The Finnish word tiede is more akin to German Wissen[s]chaft than English science, but they are used interchangeably nevertheless.

    That Wikipedia article exoticizes the term. It does include the humanities (Geisteswissenschaften, “mind sciences”), not just the natural sciences, but to encompass all “scholarship” in it is just wrong.

    My sister studied comparative literature. I’ve watched her use the scientific method in her thesis. :-|

  101. dnorrism says

    Mine would be:
    Curie
    Meitner
    Franklin
    Lovelace
    McLintock(sic?)

    And that other physicist who determined that kinetic energy is proportional to the velocity squared. Somthing that AFAK not even Newton realized. I assume she was mentioned above, but I havn’t gotten to that comment yet.

    But thanks for all the other suggestions, I have some catching up to do.

  102. chris61 says

    I probably would have gone with Curie or Franklin because I could both spell their names and remember what they did. Although I had a number of female professors as an undergraduate I couldn’t have told you about any of their research.

  103. mcjason04 says

    Marie Curie would have been the first name to come to mind but I would have gone with Barbara McClintock because it was a biology course. I think the wording of the question “What did she do?” cues your brain to think of someone historical.

  104. Isaac LeGuin says

    “Mom” would’ve been my answer to both of those, although I’ll admit I only have a shaky grasp of what exactly she did. (I tried to read her thesis once, but it was all Greek to me, the budding liberal arts major.) I can’t help but feel a certain kinship to the person who answered similarly.