Was She, or Wasn't She?

Credit in science is not always distributed fairly. The losers are often graduate students or people otherwise in no position to protest. Among the most egregious examples, in my view, was the 1974 Nobel physics prize for the discovery of pulsars which was awarded to Anthony Hewish even though the radio-emitting objects had been first discovered, and their stellar nature verified, by his graduate student Jocelyn Bell Burnell.1 Feminists have made much of the case of Rosalind Franklin, whose

Nicholas Wade
Apr 6, 2003

Credit in science is not always distributed fairly. The losers are often graduate students or people otherwise in no position to protest. Among the most egregious examples, in my view, was the 1974 Nobel physics prize for the discovery of pulsars which was awarded to Anthony Hewish even though the radio-emitting objects had been first discovered, and their stellar nature verified, by his graduate student Jocelyn Bell Burnell.1

Feminists have made much of the case of Rosalind Franklin, whose X-ray data were essential to Watson and Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA. She has now become elevated, quite possibly against her wishes, into an icon for the oppression of women scientists. "Nova explores the role of the woman who paved the way but never got the credit she deserved," says a press release for a TV documentary to run next month, in the same week as the...

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