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  • Writer's pictureDale DeBakcsy


In December of 2013, I wrote the first in what would come to be hundreds of articles in the Women In Science series. I get asked somewhat frequently why I did that. To me, it seems an inevitability, something that had to happen, at some point, in some way, and was just awaiting its opportunity.

That opportunity came at Skepticon, where I was tabling to promote the webcomic I published with Geoffrey Schaeffer, Frederick the Great: A Most Lamentable Comedy Breaching Time and Space, as well as the various skeptic-leaning periodicals I was writing for. There is a lot of down time when you're tabling at a convention, and my eye was wandering about the hall when it came to rest on a t-shirt that said, "Keep the Thor in Thursday" accompanied by a picture of a Viking helmet. I had to have it, so I walked across the hall, and into what would be the consuming core of my next decade of creative life, as manning the booth that was selling that shirt were Rebecca Watson, the founder of Skepchick, and Amy Davis Roth, the founder of Skepchick's sister site, MadArtLab. We fell to talking, and Roth asked if I'd like to write for MadArtLab, a site devoted to exploring the intersection between art and science.

If you know me at all, you know I never turn down anything, regardless of how ridiculous my schedule is at the time, and very soon I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to take the experience I had as a webcomic artist, and meld it with my experience as a science teacher, my training as a historian, and my hobby of collecting obscure books about the history of Women in Science, and put it all towards creating a column that would present scientifically deep biographical portraits of women scientists, that would be accompanied by little comic strips that educators could use to make Women In Science hep with the kids.

When I was a middle and high schooler, one of the things that kept me going was my Rogue's Gallery, a collection of pictures of my scientific and artistic heroes that I had scanned out of encyclopedias and pasted to my wall. It was motivational for me as a kid, and something that truly bothered me when I became a teacher was how hard it was for my girl students to access reliable information about a wide variety of different women scientists so that they could make their own galleries, either literal or internal. Articles on the web at the time tended to be purely biographical, leaning towards the sensational, with no real analysis of just what the science was that these individuals were known for, and I wanted to fix that.

I wanted one place where a high schooler could go and see just towering walls of hundreds of figures to inspire them and lead them on their journey of scientific self discovery, each of which had not only their life story, but scientific explanations that they could grasp with the knowledge they had acquired during their first years of high school. It was a profound longshot at the time that I could ever make something like that but hey, here we are. Neat!

The first column in that series was about 18th century mathematician and physicist Emilie du Chatelet, and was called Sex, Cards, and Calculus because I was young and drawn to goofy ridiculous titles (as opposed to now, when I am old and drawn to goofy ridiculous titles). The column remained at MadArtLab for three happy years, before transferring in 2016 to Women You Should Know, where it has remained for an additional happy seven, and now it is here, to remain for as long as there is breath in my body and enough money in the account to keep Wix at bay. I've picked 100 columns to launch with, and in the weeks to come I'll be adding more from the backlogs until all 250 columns are up (hopefully within a month or so), and then we'll be back to putting a new column up every other week or every week if I'm on some preternatural roll.

So, here we are, for the duration. Hundreds of stories have been told, and there are thousands more to tell, and I hope to see you here from time to time to draw a chair up by the fire and listen to Ole Dale spin a yarn or two about science's magnificent past and bright, bright future.

- Dale DeBakcsy

April 27, 2023



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