Female Heroines and Their Uncited Works

Not only do girls face the stigmatisation of not being ‘smart enough’ to succeed in STEM careers, it’s now becoming clear that they sometimes do not get recognition for their work. According to a study whose findings were published in Nature Astronomy (Jan 2017), published works in astronomy authored by women were 10% less likely to receive a citation in other bodies of work.

This is a tragedy, not only for the young girls who dream of understanding astrophysics and astronomy, but it also degrades the accomplishments of scientific women of the past.

Take, for example, Caroline Herschel.

Herschel (1750-1848), while not discussed as prominently as other women of science, was a trailblazer in the field of astronomy. Though she came to it late in life, she not only helped design and build telescopes but was the first women to discover a comet and to have her work published by the Royal Society. She, along with her brother William, created the current mathematical formula used for astronomy.

Perhaps most importantly, according to space.com, she was employed by King George III to be her brother’s assistant in the court, making her the first woman to ever be paid for scientific work.

She discovered 8 comets in total, and dozens more nebulae and star clusters, cataloguing approximately 550 more than had been discovered by the court’s first astronomer, John Flamsteed, and after retiring was awarded a gold medal by the Royal Astronomical Society.

Herschel helped pave the way for astronomers of the future to make amazing discoveries when they cast their eyes skyward. Countless other female astronomers have done the same.

Hopefully, we can end the practice of quoting work without citation, and give credit to all of the women who have helped expand our galaxy.

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