Category: women

These 5 Women Deserved, And Were Unjustly Deni…

These 5 Women Deserved, And Were Unjustly Denied, A Nobel Prize In Physics

“The fact of the matter is that there is no concrete evidence that women are in any way inherently inferior to men when it comes to work in any of the sciences or any of their sub-fields. But there is overwhelming evidence for misogyny, sexism, and institutional bias that hinders their careers and fails to recognize them for their outstanding achievements. When you think of the Nobel Laureates in Physics and wonder why there are so few women, make sure you remember Cecilia Payne, Chien-Shiung Wu, Vera Rubin, Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, and Lise Meitner. The Nobel committee may have forgotten or overlooked their contributions until it was too late, but that doesn’t mean we have to. In all the sciences, we want the best, brightest, most capable, and hardest workers this world has to offer. Looking back on history with accurate eyes only serves to demonstrate how valuable, and yet undervalued, women in science have been.”

In most intellectual lines of work, if you claimed that a certain type of person wasn’t mentally capable of doing as good a job as another, you’d be rightfully called a bigot. Yet somehow, in a myriad of the sciences (such as physics), there are those who simultaneously claim that “women are inferior to men” alongside the claim that it isn’t sexist or bigoted to say so.

But what there is a long history of, in physics, is women being denied their due credit for discoveries and advances that they were an integral part of. Even in the aftermath of last week’s events, when physicist Donna Strickland became just the third woman ever to be awarded a Nobel Prize, many have claimed that she isn’t worthy, for reasons that have never been applied to men.

Well, meet five women you might not be aware of who certainly earned a Nobel Prize, even if they were never awarded one. We cannot rewrite history, but we can right the legacy of its wrongs in our public consciousness.

From Wartime Devastation To Academic Discrimination, Cecile…

From Wartime Devastation To Academic Discrimination, Cecile DeWitt-Morette Overcame It All

“While Bryce was appointed to a regular tenured professorship, Cécile, though equally capable, was excluded because of archaic, unwritten nepotism rules that seemed designed to leave out women more than men. (A prime example of such exclusion was Nobel laureate Maria Goeppert Mayer, who completed much of her early work unpaid because her husband, Joseph Mayer, was on the faculty of Johns Hopkins, and she was therefore barred from a professorship there.) Despite her Ph.D., organizational talents, and stellar credentials, Cécile was assigned only to be a much lower paid lecturer. Many colleagues unceremoniously allotted Bryce credit for the work she completed; hence her eventual adoption of the hyphenated name DeWitt-Morette.”

When you have rules that treat men and women equally in theory, but the practical application of the rules leads to unequal results, that’s a classic example of a rule that doesn’t work. In the case of the towering figure in mathematical physics, Cecile DeWitt-Morette, that meant she was denied a professorship at a number of places, despite her more-than-sufficient qualifications and achievements. But the same woman who overcame the bombing of her hometown and the death of her family in World War II wouldn’t be stopped by institutional sexism, and went on to have a prolific and successful life and career for decades, including more than 40 years as a professor at UT-Austin.

Learn about and celebrate the life of Cecile DeWitt-Morette, who made it to 94 before passing away earlier this year. A fabulous story contributed by Paul Halpern!