Vivienne Malone-Mayes. Jane Hinton. Jessie Price.
You may have never heard of these black female scientists, but one woman is looking to bring their images back to life.
With the help of Twitter, Hilda Bastian (@MissingSciFaces) has worked for the past two months to uncover pictures and stories of prominent, but under-represented scientists.
With the tales of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson made famous by the recent book and movie Hidden Figures, Bastian hopes to spread the untold stories of many others.
So far, Bastian and the network she’s created have uncovered more than 20 pictures. She’s currently working on a larger list of scientists — of all minority backgrounds — whose photos and stories remain largely unknown.
Bastian’s inspiration came after editing various scientists’ Wikipedia pages. She began to notice there were few to no pictures of black female scientists, and if images did exist, they would be of the same few figures whose stories were already known.
Bastian decided to dedicate Black History Month in February to finding one image of a black female scientist per day. “But after a couple of days I realized that it was going to be impossible to find 28 quickly,” she said.
So Bastian’s work continued, with late nights scanning a variety of online databases, articles and obituaries. At the end of the month, she published a blog post of her progress, and watched as interest grew. After writing a guide on finding images and avoiding copyright infringements, Bastian began to crowdsource help for her project.
— MissingSciFaces (@MissingSciFaces) March 15, 2017
Whether through finding publications, connecting with family or reaching out to institutions where these women worked, more photos are becoming available to put faces to the names.
“It changed my mind,” Bastian said. “I started to see science differently because you started to understand why you saw all these white men all the time.” Bastian said black women were often not given author credits on research papers or were excluded from group pictures after a big accomplishment.
Vivienne Malone-Mayes, one of the first black women to get a Ph.D in mathematics, was the first black faculty member at Baylor. Jane Hinton, one of the first black women to get a veterinary degree, helped develop the Mueller-Hinton agar, a lab tool that helps grow bacteria. Jessie Price, who received her Ph.D from Cornell, discovered a life-threatening disease in duck farming.
By finding pictures of these women, Bastian hopes young girls interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) can develop a personal connection with role models of similar identities.
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