Physics

Blue plaques, female scientists, #MeToo and women on Wikipedia | Letters | Life and style


Anna Kessel makes some valuable points on the lack of blue plaques to women – not least that inaction will only lead to the worsening of this imbalance (Shortcuts, G2, 3 October). With this in mind, in 2016, English Heritage appealed for more female nominations for our London blue plaques scheme. The many suggestions we received means that now, for the first time, more women than men are being shortlisted for plaques. And far from being ignored, Noor Inayat Khan and Gertrude Bell will both be awarded plaques, subject to permission from the relevant buildings’ owners. But we need more proposals, which can be made via our website.
Anna Eavis
Curatorial director, English Heritage

Professor Alessandro Strumia’s remarks on female physicists (Cern suspends top scientist in row over ‘sexist’ lecture, 2 October) are obviously ridiculous. I am, however, puzzled by Dr Jessica Wade’s remark that “every young high-energy physicist in that room” would have had “all of their enthusiasm sucked away” listening to this nonsense. She was there, so is speaking with authority, but isn’t it possible that quite a few of these brilliant young high-energy women in the audience just thought the Prof was being a total pillock, and are quite capable of ignoring his ill-advised attempts to pontificate on the subject of feminism? Let’s hope so… we’re not all disheartened by the everyday hurdles!
Hilary Caldicott
Freeland, Oxfordshire

I had to Google Carl Cederström before I was certain that your feature was not a spoof (Could a month of feminist classics change my mind?, G2, 2 October). He quotes Emily Reynolds advising men who want to show solidarity with the #MeToo movement: they should ask women questions and start listening. Somehow he seems to hear this as “they should write articles about the resulting enlightenment”. His reading list includes Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, but he doesn’t seem to have taken the hint.

In fairness to Carl Cederström, his month of reading classic feminist texts is given a prominence by your editorial staff (a double page and the cover of G2) that their authors probably wouldn’t have achieved without his help.
Jean Rogers
Durham

You are able to quote figures for how many contributors to and how many subjects on Wikipedia are women (Female Nobel prize winner deemed not important enough for Wikipedia entry, 3 October) precisely because Wikipedia is acutely aware of the challenge of gender bias in the encyclopedia and is working actively to change it. Through our Women in Red project, and other intiatives we are increasing the visibility, coverage and authority of articles about women in Wikipedia. The real story here is not that a volunteer editor made a mistake, but that the world’s greatest online collaboration worked. It corrected itself and the results are freely available for all the world to see, edit, improve and reuse. A better headline might have been: “After discussion, Wikipedia volunteers create entry for Nobel prizewinning scientist.”
Sandy Balfour
CEO, Wikimedia UK

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