Women You Should Know is incredibly excited to announce – Women In Science Wednesday – a new collaboration with Dale DeBakcsy, a math and science teacher, dad of two daughters, and the man behind the outrageously entertaining series of comics “The Illustrated Women In Science.” Here Dale shares more about the series and what you can expect to see…
When Edna Yost set about writing the first collection of biographies about women scientists in 1943, she did so because it seemed to her that previously, “Courtesans and female saints were the only women who, as a result of their own actions, became worthy of being written about. Queens and raving beauties decorated the pages of some of the books I read [as a child], but such women as these were born to fame. And realistic young women who read about them could never hope to emulate them for the simple reason that we had already been born without the qualifications. There were still saints and courtesans. But the saints seemed to far removed and we had been trained to believe that courtesans were wicked and did not fit well into the modern scheme of things.”
She wrote the classic American Women of Science to give the world at last biographies of women whose achievements of intellect and endeavor had improved the world and humanity’s lot in it. Women a young girl could read about and imagine herself becoming, if she kept working hard and observing nature. Sixty years after that book was published, I was starting my first year as a high school teacher and noticed that, for all the progress that had been made in bringing the achievements of women scientists to light, my girls still had trouble seeing themselves as scientists.
I wanted to produce something that would show my students how every field of science had all manner of women doing brilliant work…
When I was a kid, I never had that kind of problem. I xeroxed pictures of my scientific heroes from encyclopedias, blew them up, and pasted them over my wall so that, every time I felt doubt about what I was doing and where I was going, I could look up and see Newton or Feynman or Bohr and feel that little jolt of inspiration that keeps a student going through the end of the next problem set. But my girl students didn’t seem to have that – there were books about women scientists out there, but good luck finding them at a local library. I wanted to do something about that situation, to produce something that would show my students how every field of science had all manner of women doing brilliant work, that no matter what you wanted to study, there was somebody there to look up to and take inspiration from during the long, dark hours of organic chemistry and differential equations.
The Women in Science series is my attempt to demonstrate that abundance of potential heroes. I aim to combine a deep enough explanation of the science to whet the appetites of the more than casually curious, with life stories that are cautionary and inspiring in equal measure and, because life isn’t complete without comics, three panels that present some aspect of each person’s life or work. Sometimes I can’t help myself and go deeper into the science than some might want, but I promise to give you fair warning if that’s about to happen. Sometimes the comics will be absurd beyond all justification, which it’s probably best to apologize right now for.
This series began in 2013 at MadArtLab, and continued for 78 episodes, covering everything from Madeline Girard’s vibrating spiders to Harriet Brooks’s transmuting elements to Gerty Cori’s sneaky pyruvate molecules. (MadArtLab, incidentally, is a great site about art, science, and geekery, and you should totally check it out.) And now I’m happy as a mouse in the custard to be here and have some off-the-beaten-path scientific stories stored up that I am squeakily excited about sharing, and hope you’ll enjoy as well! And if you know somebody doing work in science right now that deserves a bit of spotlight, just drop me a note over at Twitter and I’ll add them to the list. Some of my best stories have come from reader recommendations, so don’t be shy!
So, that’s the controlled mayhem that we’re going to be getting up to every Wednesday. Hope to see you there!