By Siouxsie Wiles 22/11/2010 2

I’m feeling a little melancholic today. Last night I saw an obituary on the Guardian website for Dr Judit Nagy, a former colleague from my time at Imperial College London. She was the director of the proteomics facility, an excellent scientist and genuinely nice person. In an environment like Imperial it was always nice to have role models who were doing well scientifically while juggling families (she had four children). They were few and far between. She died in a car accident. What is really sad is that Judit probably won’t be remembered for her scientific achievements. Instead, she goes down in history as the first person to be killed in an accident involving an electric car (she was driving a G-Wiz which was split in half in the accident).

Pondering over this tragedy, I read an article about a study of the Royal Society of London’s archives by Richard Holmes. He seems to be promoting his upcoming book about women in science. What astounded me (although I’m not sure why) were these little facts* about the recognition of women in science:

Royal Society of London: founded in 1660, women not permitted by statute to become fellows until 1945.

American National Academy of Sciences: founded in 1863, women had to wait till 1925.

French Academie des Sciences: founded in 1666, first woman elected in 1962.

Normally I would be feeling enraged about such injustices. Instead I just feel more depressed.

* I haven’t had time to check them….

2 Responses to “Melancholic”

  • Sorry to hear of the death of your former colleague.
    Historically, women may have been overlooked and treated badly in science but I would suggest that we are at a turning point in science and society, where women may indeed become the dominant gender if the changes I am seeing in New Zealand Universities are anything to go by. When I first started in chemistry about 25 years ago, it was largely a male dominated field. Now there seem to be more female than male PhD students, and I think three out of five of the last staff appointments in chemistry at the University of Canterbury have been women. There are now more female graduates in medicine than male if I remember recent statistics correctly, so change is certainly happening.

    • I hope so. I’m not really familiar with the situation in NZ yet, but my experience in the UK didn’t leave me too optimistic. While the majority of undergraduates, PhD students and post-docs in my field are female, as soon as you hit the lecturer level it completely changes. But them again I was at Imperial which perhaps isn’t representative of the UK as a whole.