Emily Temple-Wood: scientist and activist!

Emily Temple-Wood is taking action into her own hands. A 22 year-old recent microbiology graduate from Loyala University in Chicago, she launched the WikiProject Women Scientists in 2012, after realizing just how under-represented women scientists are on Wikipedia. DiscovHER chats with Emily about her project, how she got inspired and a few of the MANY scientists she’s brought into the spotlight since she began her initiative!

1/ Tell us about your WikiProject: Women Scientists. What is it and how did you come up with the idea?

WikiProject Women Scientists is a place for collaboration where Wikipedia editors from all around the world work together to improve existing articles about women scientists and write new ones. I started the WikiProject in the fall of 2012 after participating in a Ada Lovelace Day celebration. I found so many women scientists who hadn't been included in Wikipedia yet and a project like this is the natural thing to do on Wikipedia when you see something that needs work.

2/ Why did you choose this particular action of creating Wikipedia pages for women scientists?

Because Wikipedia (and the internet in general) is a marker of legitimacy for people. With my generation especially, there's an attitude that if something's not on Wikipedia, it's not important or doesn't really exist. This makes it really important for us to write about women, people of color, LGBT people, and anyone else who's been oppressed. I think of it in terms of legacy - we are helping to preserve legacies that otherwise would fade into obscurity in yellowing copies of scientific journals.

3/ In total, since the beginning of the project, how many articles have you written?

We started out with 1400 articles and now we have more than 5000! When we started, I thought we might someday reach 3000 and that there wouldn't be too many more notable women scientists past that. I was really, dramatically, wonderfully wrong, and it feels great to eat my words!

4/ Do you have a favorite woman scientist (or a few) you discovered thanks to this initiative?

It's so hard to choose - so here are two of my favorites. Caroline Still Anderson was an amazing African-American physician - the third black woman to get an MD in the US - and not only got an internship by marching into a racist hospital and lecturing the people who had rejected her, but provided desperately needed medical care to basically all of the poor black women and children in Philadelphia. Agnodice was a Greek physician who had to pretend to be a man to practice medicine; when she became popular among the women of Athens, their husbands brought her to court because they thought she was sleeping with all of them. Instead, legend has it that she ripped off her clothes in court and revealed her sex...at which point they re-sued her for practicing medicine illegally as a woman. She was spared a death sentence because all of the women protested the court.

5/ What kind of expectations did you have when you began this project, in terms of impact or raising awareness and visibility? Are you surprised with the results?

I had no expectations going in - I was just excited to have a few other people writing biographies! We've done so much more than I ever anticipated. We have more than 70 members, have almost tripled our initial article count, and have raised so much awareness. I'm really proud to share this project with the world and even more importantly, to share the stories of women scientists!

What do you think about Emily’s initiative? Let us know @4womeninscience

Photo by Andrew Lih

For Women in Science

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