Five years into our now eight year mission to tell the untold, often ignored, and altogether lost or erased stories of women who deserve a giant spotlight on their lives and achievements, triumphs and challenges, we embarked on an editorial partnership with Dale DeBakcsy, writer, artist, author, teacher. It has given rise to one of our platform’s most read columns – Women In Science. Yesterday we published Dale’s 150th episode, an in-depth, and riveting account of the complicated life story of Grace Chisholm Young, a brilliant mathematician. Celebrating this milestone would not be complete without raising our WYSKy glasses to Dale. So this is our toast to the selfless contribution he makes in preserving so many fading stories of pioneering women in science…
We’ve been proud home to Dale’s Women In Science column since December 21, 2016. The very first DeBakcsy authored and illustrated piece we published – Sex, Cards, and Calculus: A Day with Badass Mathematician Émilie du Châtelet (1706-1749) – was about another brilliant mathematician. But Dale’s preservationist quest began long before we threw our WYSKy door wide open and welcomed him in. As his WIS story goes…
“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.
“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.”
Dale’s idea came to life as Women In Science, a series of articles and comics he writes and illustrates, detailing the history of women scientists, pulling from his collection of women scientist biographies and references he’s been slowly putting together over the years. He describes it as his “attempt to demonstrate that abundance of potential heroes,” aiming 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.”
The very same Émilie du Châtelet piece that kicked off our ‘WIS on WYSK’ mashup, originally made its worldwide debut on December 19, 2013 on MadArtLab, a website devoted to the intersection of art, feminism, skepticism, and science. Dale’s Women In Science column ran there for 3 years and 78 episodes, covering everything from Madeline Girard’s vibrating spiders to Harriet Brooks’s transmuting elements to Gerty Cori’s sneaky pyruvate molecules.
Fast forward to 2016… when Women In Science and Women You Should Know first hit each other’s radar. “What I needed was an institution dedicated to the proposition that women’s history must be unearthed, told, and promoted with every scrap of know-how the Internet age has to offer, run by people who consider it a profound and humbling responsibility to provide these stories a home,” Dale explained. “That’s what Women You Should Know has become for me – an archive of endangered stories the mere existence of which stands as a bastion against the selective amnesia of standard histories. Here the forgotten come to find their voices again, and it has been one of the steady joys of my life to write the Women in Science column here for the last three years.”
And now for that toast we mentioned above…
Dale, thank you for introducing us to so many incredible and brilliant women we would otherwise not know, and for allowing us the privilege of helping you preserve these stories that would otherwise be lost or untold. As long as the heart of Women You Should Know continues to beat, Women In Science will always have a home with us. Here’s to the next 150 episodes!
You Should Know Dale’s Favorite Scientist He’s Profiled
“It’s down to Sofia Kovalevskaya because I have a complete and acknowledged bias towards awesome mathematicians who are also Russian novelists, and Jennifer Doudna, because the magnitude of what she did has such profound implications for the future of humanity that I can’t help but stand a bit slack-jawed before its enormity.”
You Should Know Dale’s Historians Of Women Scientists Heroes
“Edna Yost, who is more or less the founding figure of the topic with her multiple books on women scientists from the 1940s, Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie, who did so much to gather material on women in science to reignite interest in the 1980s, Marelene Rayner-Canham, who for me set a standard in researching and sharing the stories of scientists in danger of being forgotten with her books about women in chemistry in the 1990s, and Jeannine Atkins, who has for decades been a force in telling the story of women scientists in children’s and young adult books so that their example can be breathed in at an early age by all.”