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June 19th, 2023, Helsinki

Maria Babakhanyan STONE

I love reading astronomy books. I love the topic of astronomy, but today as I reached a section in mid-chapter, I had a frown of disappointment. I reported it in the short twitter chain, but repeat this here for future reference.

One way that female scientists are put into a disadvantageous position is by people omitting giving credit for their work, and sometimes it’s hard to detect all the instances. I noticed in my textbook an example of this sneaky instance.

Reading chapter after chapter of Astronomy textbook “Astronomy: a physical perspective, 2ed by Marc Kutner”, I spotted the omission of naming the female discoverer E. Noether, while many male scientists were mentioned before and after 🙁

In the whole section (spanning one and a half pages) on symmetry in physics, Emmy Noether was not mentioned as the genius behind the Noether’s theorem, which relates symmetries in a system to conservation laws, a theorem that permeates actually most of physics!

It is disappointing that such an otherwise good book has such an unfair bias that in a somewhat sneaky way lies within the text. I suggest further editions to always give credit to Emmy Noether for her work and contribution.

And here is an article about this inspirational mathematician, and her prevailing genius despite the obstacles she faced. Please credit female scientists, also to bring to light role models for aspiring scientists’ sake and to support diversity:

I am grateful that my professor of physics at the San Jose State University always mentioned her name, so I could notice this omission.

I started writing my PhD dissertation introduction. I am working on a PhD degree in Astronomy at the University of Turku, which is in a form of a compilation of several published works. I had some gloomy thoughts last few weeks, doubting whether I could be a scientist who could make discoveries, whether I could innovate, simply because I was a woman and not a man. I thought maybe after all there are so few examples, and it’s true I am not capable of innovation?! Perhaps not getting yet a postdoc position after 20+ applications last year only contributed to the journey into the darkness and the doom. I was scratching my head trying to think of female innovators, and only one or two at the time came to my memory (Mary Kingsley, and maybe the female astronauts), so I was sliding into a sad spiral. My dream is to discover things in science, but was it meant to be?

I am in a way really happy to stumble on this situation, because I remember now Emmy Noether, who is a female scientist, and she did make a groundbreaking discovery that ripples throughout the world of physics laws due to the importance of the conservation of energy, conservation of angular momentum, etc. It is kind of sad to read her numerous challenges, especially not getting paid for working, or not getting the recognition that she deserved. But at least, I was encouraged and inspired that female brain is capable of amazing discoveries in physics, in mathematics, in astronomy. Thank you, Universe, for such an inspirational example of female mathematician’s genius. I needed this at this moment to fight off discouraging thoughts as I dive deeper and deeper into the career as a scientist, which I am ashamed to have as an advanced academic, but that’s another blog post article.

P.S. Added later… Duh, I forgot that Marie Curie was an inspirational scientist also. I also find it inspirational that she had made an arrangement with her sister to support each other at school. First her sister pursued studies in medicine while Marie supported her, and then Marie studied while her sister supported her, and I mean financially.

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