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This Physicist Wrote 1,750 Wikipedia Bios for Women Scientists

Jess Wade is quite a big deal on Wikipedia.



Jess Wade I Wikipedia Commons

Jess Wade on the Skydeck in Chicago.

Wade, a London-based physicist, single-handedly has more than 1750 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 were out there and in the public domain,” she added.

Wade started writing biographies for women on Wikipedia in 2017 after meeting Kim Cobb, a climate scientist, at an event. She wondered why Cobb didn’t have a Wikipedia page — which led her to think about the bigger problem of women not having a Wikipedia bios. And to write them yourself.

Since then she punches bios for a variety of female scientists with a constant clip – like Clarice Phelps, for example, the first African-American woman to help discover a new elementas recognized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

When an online editor on Wikipedia flagged Phelps’ page because he wasn’t conspicuous enough, Wade fought 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 started working on the pages, she has received awards such as the Daphne Jackson Medal and Prize, an early career physics award. 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, collaborated with 500 nonprofit female scientists, and was added to Queen Elizabeth’s 2019 birthday list, per NBC News. She is also an advocate for women in STEM.

“It was pretty wild to be honored by the royal family,” Wade told the outlet. She added that she was unable to meet the Queen, but took her mother to Buckingham Palace and brought a souvenir.

“I took a Tupperware to take some royal sandwiches home to my father,” she said.

Wikipedia suffers from gender bias in general. Only 369,172 English-language biographies are about women, of the 1.9 million total, according to WikiProject Women in red.

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

“Jess and Emily are among an amazing group of women who have a big impact on the quality of Wikipedia content,” he told the outlet.


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