xkcd, a great geeky webcomic, features Zombie Marie Curie in today’s strip. ZMC says she’s tired of being THE token female scientist and spends some time talking about other great women scientists and mathematicians, but her real point is:

You don’t become great by trying to be great. You become great by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process.

As someone who did one of the multitudinous Marie Curie projects in grade school, I really appreciate the point about tokenism. I’m glad that I had learned about tokenism by the time, years later, that a guy tried to tell me that the 1950s weren’t that bad about gender roles because: Look! Adm. Grace Hopper had genitals that were an innie and she was a computer scientist! Bugs! Um, ok. Name two other famous female computer scientists – heck, famous female scientific/technical experts from the 1950s. Tokens, yoo haz one. (sic)

But the point about greatness is even more important. We don’t need another Marie Curie. We already had one. The message I’d like to get out to young women, and everybody, is that we need the first one of you doing whatever you’re good at that makes the world a better place.

3 thoughts on “Zombies, tokenism, and greatness

  1. Let’s not forget Ada Lovelace, and if you’re looking for a name from the fifties, Rosalind Franklin.

    I like to think that if her colleagues hadn’t been a bunch of privileged male male jerks, Franklin would have gotten more credit for her work on the structure of DNA.

    1. Actually, I meant that I challenged the d00d who was making the claim to name names, not that I was challenging readers. But I’m always happy to give a shout out to Lovelace, Noether, Meitner, Franklin et alia! How cool on the Noether portrait. My university’s math department could have used a copy.

  2. Oh, yeah, as a math major at Bryn Mawr College, I used to walk past a portrait of Emmy Noether on my way to class at least three times/week.

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