British Physicist Visualizing Female Scientists Online

During the day, Jessica Wade spends her time in a lab at Imperial College London surrounded by spectrometers, oscilloscopes and men.

By night, she writes Wikipedia biographies of female researchers like her who have no online presence.

“We can’t just shout that we need more women in science. We need to honor and celebrate the female scientists we have,” she told AFP.

“And I think writing their stories and allowing the world to recognize their achievements is a very important way to do that.”

Wade, 34, has been working at Imperial’s impressive campus in West London since 2016.

As a physicist, he is involved in the development of a new generation of carbon-based semiconductors to improve the energy efficiency of optical and electronic devices such as televisions and solar panels.

She leads a 5 person team on a wider team of about 15 people. She is the only female scientist.

Science is “very male-dominated,” said Wade, lamenting the lack of interest in science by girls whose parents aren’t scientists.

“As soon as you walk into a physics department with a privileged background, which is predominantly male and predominantly white, not everyone has the opportunity to study physics, not everyone is interested in physics. I realized that I didn’t have a ‘,’ she added.

“The lack of diversity is the science we do, the questions we ask, the direction we go, the way we translate our innovations into society, how those kinds of devices are actually used in the world, It affects who benefits.


Wade now aims to “bring science to more people”, but he stumbled across a “knowledge gap” in the free, multilingual collaborative encyclopedia on the Internet.

“Wikipedia is a great platform that everyone in society uses,” she said.

“Used by 15 billion access points per month. Parents, teachers, policy makers, journalists, scientists, Amazon, Alexa, Google Home use Wikipedia to find information.”

But there is one big problem, she added.

Wade set out to correct the imbalance in 2018, and since then he’s written about 2,000 pages himself at the rate of one every night after dinner at home.

“It takes over an hour each, so it’s already taking too long in my life,” she laughed.

However, she is not deterred by difficult tasks.

“I don’t think it will stop anytime soon,” she said.

In fact, she often discovers more female scientists as she writes another biography, so the research itself produces more work.

Waze’s first Wikipedia biography entry was for American climatologist Kim Cobb.

I met her at a conference, but when I looked her up on Wikipedia, I found nothing about her ocean research.


Wade, who is now part of a network of female editors and leads workshops on how to write for Wikipedia, said it means that a person’s presence and work will be discovered on the Internet.

“A little girl who is Googling something about sea urchins will click and land on a Wikipedia page about the amazing female scientist who contributed to it,” she said.

“If you’re trying to nominate someone for an award, or become a fellow, or invite someone to give a talk, always google them and have a well-summarized biography in places like Wikipedia. If so, it’s very simple: write someone’s citation or bibliography.”

That happened to Gladys West, a 92-year-old black American mathematician. His profile was one of Wade’s first profiles of him.

Beginning in 1956, when segregation was still in force in America, she spent 42 years working on naval navigation systems. Her calculations eventually led to her development of GPS.

“I looked up Gladys to write her page, but there was very little information about her online, she was almost 90, and no one was celebrating her.

“In February 2018, she put her Wikipedia page online and in May 2018 she was ranked among the BBC’s Top 100 Women in the World.

“And she was inducted into the U.S. Air Force Hall of Fame and won the Prince Philip Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineering, something that had never been given to a woman before.” British Physicist Visualizing Female Scientists Online

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