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Tue Jan 28 12:02:26 PST 2003

> > Be that as it may, it was, in fact, Watson and Crick who
> > discovered the
> > actual structure of DNA, which is a double-helix and who,
> > properly, deserve
> > credit for that work.  This isn't to say that Franklins
> > contributions are
> > unfairly overlooked, but that is the nature of scientific celebrity.
>I still have my textbook from that class. I will look that up when I get 
>home. I remember learning otherwise, but my memory is frequently faulty. 
>Like when I could not find my car last night...

I'd appreciate that.  I'll tell you, flat out, though that if your textbook 
claims that she discovered that the structure was a double-helix, then your 
textbook is in error.  You can take a look at her actual papers, if you 
don't believe me. :-)

>Regardless, Franklin's contributions are unfairly overlooked, as you say.

That is without doubt.  I will NOT defend the treatment that she recieved 
over her work.

>That was my point...that is one of my pet peeves. Perhaps it is true that 
>it is the "nature of scientific celebrity". The point of this particular 
>class was to address the tendency of the classroom to overlook consistently 
>contributions of females.

Again, I wouldn't deny this.  I just think that there are better examples.  
As I said in my original reply, even the celebrated Marie Curie was the 
subject of blatant gender discrimination. [1]

>Of course those contributions were overlooked, denied, lied about in the 
>society that existed simply because of gender. Now that gender is no longer 
>an issue (well, it is, but that's another argument, so I'll > simplify...),

Believe me, I agree that it's still an issue.  No need to sugar-coat for me. 

>there is still a gender discrepency in many scientific fields, in part due 
>to what young girls are learning about scientists, namely that they are 
>white males who resemble Einstein and wear white lab coats and have frizzy 
>white hair.

I wonder.  Sure, that may be part of it, but why science, in particular?  
Virtually every field of endeavor was dominated by white males for most of 
Western history, but you don't see women shying away from other disciplines 
that used to be male dominated.  For that matter, how do we account for the 
lack of women in such fields as computer sciences that only became popular 
subjects of study well *after* the feminist movement?

I think that this is something at fault, but I don't know if it is something 
as simple as a lack of applicable role models?

>Even though the women weren't winning Nobel Prizes back then,

Well, they were... just not very often.

>it is the duty of educators now to make some arbitrary assessment of 
>contributions they allegedly did make, and teach that as well.

I agree with that so long as we avoid applying a reverse double-standard.  
Just because a given scientist was a woman does not automatically mean that 
her contributions warrent special merit.  As such, I don't think that any 
reassessments should be "arbitrary".  Doing so only cheapens the results you 
generate and tarnishes, by association, the work of the legitimately 
important contributions of females in the field.

>Perhaps in a gender-unbiased world it would have turned out the same for 

I don't know.  Personally, I would prefer to emphasize her positive work 
(not only in DNA studies, but in virology) rather than to focus on her 
treatment.  She was an impressive scientist and deserves to have her work 
celebrated, and one doesn't need to exaggerate her contributions, even 
slightly, in order to do so.

>I'm not concerned about her fate now. I'm concerned about my daughter's 

I would not disparage your concern.

Just out of curiosity, and feel free to tell me to mind my own business, 
what are you doing to encourage her?  I ask because one of my engineering 
friends was actively *discouraged* by her own mother from persuing an 
engineering degree.

>Clearly it is time to get off the soap box before I fall!

I suppose it is getting crowded up here. ;-)

>Now I'm going to make a stretch and drag the conversation back to topic. 
>One of my favorite things about the Khaavren romances is the gender 

I think that can be said of the Dragaeran books, as a whole.

What I *particularly* like about that is that Brust writes strong female 
characters without portraying them as either virtual men (*way* too many do 
this), portraying them as insufferable harridans (Jordan, anyone), or by 
assuming a stance of female superiority (a lot of female authors fall into 
that trap, unfortuantely).  It is simply a fact of the culture that men and 
women have equal status.

>On another topic (I believe the Favorite Authors thread) there was 
>discussion about some male authors who couldn't write female >characters, 
>but it's not limited to male authors. Jane Austen

I don't agree with *that*, modulo the difference in cultural contexts.  I 
think that Austin was an expert on character study.  Not quite Shakespearean 
in her insights, but a damned good second.

>couldn't do it, but even her attempts are much better than, say, LM 
>Montgomery or Louisa May Alcott.

Indeed.  The irony is painful.

-- Andrew Lias

[1] Of course, one must always bear in mind that the social context was 
different.  It was only very recently that sexism, as a concept (much less 
an error) was developed.  This doesn't excuse the regressive state of sexual 
and racial attitudes that permeated the sciences through much of its 
history, but it is important to understand that this isn't something 
specific to the sciences, but part of a larger whole.

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