Week 7: Outreach

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Saturday, July 17, 2021


Maura Shapiro

This was probably my busiest week at work to date. I finished the teaching guides (basically, those things never really feel finished) and now am working on the “outreach” portion of my internship. Now that I’ve researched Eunice Foote and Laura Bassi to exhaustion, it’s time to share that knowledge with the world--and advertise the teaching guides in the process. For this, I’m writing an article for Physics Today Online, editing Wikipeadia pages, and writing a blog post for NBLA. Though on paper it does not seem like a huge project, everything I’m doing is new to me and just getting started is intimidating. 

For writing the Physics Today article about Eunice Foote, I interviewed two of the researchers whose work I had been reading. Just talking to them, one was literally a knight, was intimidating although they were nothing but kind and helpful. Now, I want to make sure I do them and their work justice, as well as Eunice Foote. I now, unreasonably, consider Euncie to be a close, personal friend and understand why people get so invested in celebrities’ lives. Despite my nerves, I am really excited for this article. Many articles take an approach where the historians are the agents, uncovering materials about Foote, but I want Foote to be the agent of the story, she deserves it. Because little is really known about her perspective and her personal beliefs, I will instead supplement with the kind of world-building that science fiction novels do: what was 1850s science, who was important, how did people communicate, what was happening politically. Then it will be fun to introduce characters and science. Well, a very specific kind of fun. 

The Wikipedia editing has been really rewarding. Though it is scary how easy it is to edit the Wikipedia pages, adding to public knowledge in this way feels really important. So far I’ve only made small changes, adding citations or linking Foote and Bassi’s pages to other pages. Still, it feels like I am taking part in righting the historical wrong of women not being included in the story of science. After my first day of edits, NPR ran a segment about Jess Wade, a physicist at the Imperical College London who, for the past three years, has been making Wikipedia pages for women in science every day. It was really inspiring to hear from her and also a sort of full circle moment because I have read many of her pages!


Maura Shapiro