On 10th April 2019 astronomers released the first ever image of a black hole. And interestingly, a 29-year-old female US Computer Scientist Dr Katie Bouman has been credited for it. But many netizens (read men) weren’t happy with the fact that a female astronomer could achieve what male astronomers have tried from so long time.
The Straits Times reported, “On Reddit and Twitter, memes quickly went viral contrasting Dr Bouman with Mr Chael, who – per the viral images – was actually responsible for 850,000 of the 900,000 lines of code that were written in the historic black-hole image algorithm!”
Gene Park, from The Washington Post‘s audience development and social media team, also took to Twitter to reveal this:
Not only are there a bunch of fake Katie Bouman @instagram accounts now, but they’re spreading the lie about her colleague writing most of the code and commenters are just eating it up anyway thinking they’re replying to the real deal. They even made a fake account for the guy. pic.twitter.com/Uqo2GhKOhc
— Gene Park, dear gamer (@GenePark) April 12, 2019
The situation reflects the vitriol women face socially. Would something like this have happened if the genders were reversed?
When Dr Andrew Chael Took Out To Twitter To Reveal The Truth
Since the posts defaming Dr Bouman went viral overnight, Dr Andrew Chael himself tweeted the reality.
“While I appreciate the congratulations on a result that I worked hard on for years, if you are congratulating me because you have a sexist vendetta against Katie, please go away and reconsider your priorities in life,” he tweeted.
(1/7) So apparently some (I hope very few) people online are using the fact that I am the primary developer of the eht-imaging software library (https://t.co/n7djw1r9hY) to launch awful and sexist attacks on my colleague and friend Katie Bouman. Stop.
— Andrew Chael (@thisgreyspirit) April 12, 2019
Dr Chael told the world that while he wrote some of the code for three different types of imaging, Dr Bouman was there to rigorously test the codes submitted. The world needs more men like him who feel no shame in recognising great work done by a woman.
Dr Margaret Hamilton: Coder Of Apollo 11 Guidance Software
This is not the first time that a female scientist’s contributions was looked upon with scepticism. In 2016, when Dr Margaret Hamilton was awarded the Presidential Medal Of Freedom, a person took to Twitter asking, “Is that the software Neil Armstrong deactivated for the first Moon landing? Just Asking.”
After strong criticism from the people, he deactivated his account and hence the tweet isn’t visible today! You can find it here.
Interestingly, NASA reverted to the man and validated that the first moon landing would not have been possible without Dr Hamilton’s codes. Actually, Dr Hamilton wrote the code that allowed the system to prioritise certain commands when it became overloaded.
In a speech by the then President of USA, Barack Obama, said, “Before landing on the Moon, the alarms in Apollo 11 triggered Red and Yellow. Our astronauts didn’t have much time but thankfully they had Dr Margaret Hamilton, a young MIT Scientist.” You can listen to the speech here.
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Anushika Srivastava is an Intern with SheThePeople.Tv