The Atlantic

The Women Who Contributed to Science but Were Buried in Footnotes

In a new study, researchers uncovered female programmers who made important but unrecognized contributions to genetics.
Source: Bettmann / Getty

In science, the question of who gets credit for important work—fraught in any field—is set down on paper, for anyone to see. Authorship, given pride of place at the top of scientific papers, can advance reputations and careers; credits buried in the rarely read acknowledgments section do not.

Over the past few years, a team of students led by Emilia Huerta-Sánchez from Brown University and Rori Rohlfs from San Francisco State University has been searching through two decades’ worth of acknowledgments in genetics papers and discovering women who were never given the credit that would be expected for today’s researchers. They identified dozens of female programmers who made important but unrecognized contributions. Some were repeatedly thanked in the acknowledgments of several papers, but were never recognized as authors. They became literal footnotes in scientific history, despite helping make that history.

“When Emilia and I

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min read
Meme Thievery Goes Corporate
For a company that sells fancy skin-care products, Drunk Elephant’s Instagram account tells a lot of jokes about carbohydrates. “I miss the 90s, when bread was good for you, and no one knew what kale was,” the brand posted in August. Two weeks later,
The Atlantic4 min readScience
The Mystery At The Center Of The Solar System
A spacecraft has finally gotten close enough to the sun to gather clues about some lingering questions.
The Atlantic7 min readPolitics
The President Can Do Whatever He Wants, Which Is Why He Can’t
The Founders gave the executive branch immense authority—but also counted on the people to hold their leaders in check.