NYT Changes Sexist Obit for Researcher

After an outcry from the Twittersphere, The New York Times alters the start of an obituary for acclaimed rocket scientist Yvonne Brill.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

View full profile.


Learn about our editorial policies.

Apr 1, 2013

YOUTUBE SCREEN SHOTNASA jet propulsion scientist Yvonne Brill, who won the prestigious National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2011 and a Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2001 for inventing a jet propulsion system that helped keep communications satellites in their orbits, died last Wednesday (March 27). But The New York Times seemed to feel that her accomplishments as a cook and mother overshadowed her work in science, judging from the first paragraph of her obituary, published in the newspaper’s March 30 edition. The original version of the obit started like this:

“She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.”

This focus on her at-home skills set off a storm of angry tweets from readers after the story ran. Eventually the Times’ public editor Margaret...

Brill was a pioneering figure in the field of rocket science. She died at age 88 in Princeton, New Jersey.

Interested in reading more?

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?