You may have noticed that i reblog STEM posts somewhat often, but I find that the mainstream science and math blogs have a tendency to ignore the contributions of women or people of color (with the exception of Neil deGrasse Tyson). Sometimes it’s under the banner of “historical contributions” that ignore the historical practice of only acknowledging what is written by certain groups or in the language accepted by certain groups (largely because it’s the only language they understand) as well as the age-old practice of theft.
so… every now and then i get annoyed enough to do some quick searching and create a post acknowledging the work of people of color (and the list MUST include women) in science, technology, engineering, and math whether historical or current.
Here is such a list “The 50 Most Important Blacks in Research Science”, from 2004, published by Black Engineer Magazine (pdf) (html). The Mathematicians of the African Diaspora page contains links for most of these scientists if you are interested (x).
In my search, i also found a page by the University of Pennsylvania, titled “Pioneer African American Mathematicians”, about American Black mathematicians who studied at UPenn (x).
One thing I find somewhat disturbing is how often our contributions are limited to being the first to be admitted, allowed to graduate, or finally promoted to a position we earned. Rarely do we find where we are credited with creating something theoretical, which seems to be the requirement for being included on many of these “best of” or “world-changing” lists created and promoted by mainstream STEM blogs.
I find that when you get into the contributions of POC and women, we are often more likely to be credited with having been integral in something on the applied side or with creating the very foundation for which theories are built. But… for whatever reason(s) (ahem, the white supremacy myth and sexism), those are never considered world-changing or important enough to be a required and tested part of the common curriculum. We don’t teach names and cultures at the elementary and secondary educational levels until the recognizable entries into the field become backed by white faces. You have to pay for specialty undergraduate or graduate courses to learn that POC and women were heavily instrumental in building these fields into what they are… after 20+ years of whitewashing and the exclusion of women.
In the search today, i came across some of the work of Beatrice Lumpkin, an activist and former educator of mathematics at the community college level. She penned a thesis of sorts for the Portland Public School system titled “African and African-American Contributions to Mathematics” (x) that provides some important foundation I didn’t have the pleasure of learning until i took a History of Mathematics class at the college level (a course that still glossed over or simply skipped the contributions of Blacks as much as possible). She also uses this to mention the creation of a relatively new field called ethnomathematics which led me to a publication from 1997 “Ethnomathematics: Challenging Eurocentrism in Mathematics Education (Suny Series, Reform in Mathematics Education)” with editors Arthur B. Powell and Marilyn Frankenstein and 2010’s “The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics (Third Edition)” by George Gheverghese Joseph. Both are available on Amazon.com for under $30 and definitely on my reading list now because this isn’t about being PC or even “just” about diversity.
This is about telling the truth when it comes to science, technology, engineering, and math… and the way we have determined what, in supposedly objective fields, has been critical to their advancement by purely subjective racist+sexist means.