This Physicist Wrote 1,750 Wikipedia Bios for Female Scientists

Jess Wade is a pretty big deal on Wikipedia.



Jess Wade I Wikipedia Commons

Jess Wade on the Sky Deck in Chicago.

Wade, a London-based physicist, has single-handedly written over 1,750 Biography pages for notable women scientists who have not received recognition on Wikipedia, according to the Washington Post.

“When people know who you are, you get more opportunities,” Wade told the outlet. She hopes to “make sure people’s stories are there and publicly available,” she added.

Wade began writing Wikipedia biographies for women in 2017 after meeting Kim Cobb, a climate scientist, at an event. She wondered why Cobb didn’t have a Wikipedia page — which got her thinking about the larger problem of women without Wikipedia bios. And to write them yourself.

Since then she has been punching bios for a multitude of women scientists at a steady pace – such as Clarice Phelps, the first African American woman to have helped discover a new element as recognized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

When an online editor on Wikipedia flagged Phelps’ page Because he wasn’t notable enough, Wade struggled to keep it up, and it worked.

Each post takes her about a few hours to write, plus a few hours to research the topics, she told the Post.

Since she began working on the pages, she has received accolades such as the Daphne Jackson Medal and Prize, a physics award for her early career. She was also named Wikimedian of the Year in 2019 for her efforts on the site.

Wade has also hosted edit-a-thons for Wikipedia pages, works with gender nonprofit 500 women scientists, and was included in Queen Elizabeth’s 2019 Birthday Honors list, according to NBC News. She is also committed to women in the STEM field.

“It was pretty wild to be honored by the royal family,” Wade told the outlet. She added that she would not be able to meet the Queen, but brought her mum to Buckingham Palace and picked up a souvenir.

“I picked up a Tupperware to smuggle home some royal sandwiches for my dad,” she said.

Wikipedia generally suffers from gender bias. According to WikiProject Women in Red, only 369,172 English-language biographies out of a total of 1.9 million are about women.

That would mean that Wade alone wrote 0.47% of it. Emily Temple-Wood, a 28-year-old Wikipedia star editor (who lives in Chicago according to her page) was another activist behind adding these biographies, and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has noted her efforts, per the Post.

“Jess and Emily are part of an amazing group of women who have had a huge impact on the quality of Wikipedia’s content,” he told the outlet.



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