Thursday, 21 April 2011

Storytelling

Thursday, 21 April 2011 12:30
epershand: Rose brandishing knitting needles. (Rose)
I was just reminded of this anecdote and decided to write it down.

A year or so my grandparents and I were having a conversation about Lise Meitner and the degree to which she got ignored by her contemporaries despite the huge impact she had on the field of nuclear physics, quantum electrodynamics in particular. A couple of examples: One of the particles she discovered is named after a dude who discovered it independently, two years ago. Her work was integral to the discovery of nuclear fission, but the Nobel Prize for it went to all the guys she worked with and not to her.

A bit of background is relevant here: my grandparents are retired academics, my grandmother in early-twentieth-century women's history and my grandfather in nano-physics. So they're both super into the conversation. As is usual, they both want to run to their libraries to grab books on the subject.

"I know of a book that talks about her!" my grandfather exclaims. He runs to his bookshelves and grabs the book in question. We turn to the index eagerly, only to find that Meitner is mentioned in exactly one footnote.

The title of the book in question? Quantum Electrodynamics and the Men Who Made It.

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