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This Physicist Wrote 1,750 Wikipedia Bios for Female Scientists

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Jess Wade is kind of a big deal on Wikipedia.



Jess Wade I Wikipedia Commons

Jess Wade on the Skydeck in Chicago.

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

“Having people know who you are means you get more opportunities,” Wade told the outlet. She hopes to “make sure people’s stories were on there and in the public domain,” she added.

Wade started writing Wikipedia biographies for women in 2017 after she met Kim Cobb, a climate scientist, at an event. She wondered why Cobb did not have a Wikipedia page — which led her to think about the larger issue of women lacking Wikipedia bios. And to write them herself.

Since then, she’s been punching out bios for a variety of women scientists at a steady clip — like Clarice Phelps, for example, the first African-American woman to help discover a new element, as recognized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

When an online editor on Wikipedia flagged Phelps’ page for not being notable enough, Wade fought to keep it up, and it worked.

Each post takes her around a couple of hours to write, plus a few hours to research the subjects, she told the Post.

Since she started work on the pages, she’s received awards like 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, works with gender inclusive nonprofit 500 Women Scientists, and was added to Queen Elizabeth’s 2019 Birthday Honors 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 she was not able to meet the Queen but brought her mom along to Buckingham Palace and took a souvenir with her.

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

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

That would mean that Wade has, on her own, written .47% of them. Emily Temple-Wood, a 28-year-old star Wikipedia editor (who lives in Chicago, according to her page) has been another activist as far as adding these biographies go, and the co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has noted their efforts, per the Post.

“Jess and Emily are among a fantastic group of women having a big impact on the quality of content of Wikipedia,” he told the outlet.

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