December 14, 2006

I Get So Tired

A few nights ago I was watching a history program on which it was stated, 'Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin.'
I immediately went to the internet and googled 'cotton gin'. I found numerous articles that coupled 'cotton gin' and 'Eli Whitney' in the first sentence. In a very few, Catherine Littlefield Greene was mentioned in passing later in the article. None accepted the idea that a mere woman could have invented the gin. None put forth the facts as I understand them--namely that, because Greene was not legally allowed to patent her invention, she turned for help to Whitney who promptly stole her work for himself.
And, today, Whitney is still credited with the invention of the cotton gin in virtually every publication.
Likewise, try googling 'discovery of DNA'.
You'll find plenty of material on Francis Crick and James Watson.
If Rosalind Franklin is cited at all, her habit of not thoroughly combing her hair will also be mentioned.
It will decidedly NOT be noted that Crick and Watson stole her research-- even though they later admitted having done so. AFTER winning a joint Nobel Prize for 'their' discoveries.
Look in any child's science textbook. You'll see pictures of M. Curie as if he was the only person researching x-rays. If she is pictured at all, Mme. Curie is shown peering over her husband's shoulder: a spectator at the great man's side who witnessed his research. This is the woman who died of leukemia because of the work she pioneered.
Today, more than a century after the invention of the cotton gin and the discovery of x-rays, 40 years or more after the early, definitive work on DNA, men are still credited with almost all the breakthroughs concerning science and technology--although women were central to the development of many of them.
We haven't come so far as the male establishment would like us to believe. Probably so we'll sit down and shut the hell up.
Well, no.

1 comment:

TomCat said...

I've been known to play male chauvinist pig, completely in humor of course, but I think you might slap me if I do. ;-)

In the 1970s, I hired a female sales person for my Janitorial company, something unheard of at the time. Several months later I selected her to become Sales Manager. Three out of my four male sales people quit so they would not have to work under a woman.