Nic Lewis: She was walking past where Oppenheimer was living. And he had walked outta his house just a little before her and he paused and waited for her to catch up. he asked all about how she was doing, what was happening in the punch card operation, what kind of results they were getting. Did she need anything?
She was astounded.
Katie Hafner: During World War II, thousands of scientists took part in the three year race led by J. Robert Oppenheimer to build an atomic bomb that would end the war. Hundreds of those scientists were women. They were physicists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians … and computation experts, whose calculations helped determine if the theoretical ideas behind the bomb would work.
This is Lost Women of the Manhattan Project, a special series of Lost Women of Science focusing on a few of those women.
There’s a test that we at Lost Women of Science seem to fail again and again: the Finkbeiner Test. Named for the science writer, Ann Finkbeiner, the Finkbeiner Test is a checklist for writing profiles of female scientists without being sexist.
It includes rules like not mentioning her husband’s job, or her childcare arrangements, or how she was the “first woman to…”—all rules we break regularly on this show. In this episode, Katie Hafner talks to Christie Aschwanden, the science writer who created the test, and Ann Finkbeiner, who inspired it, to find out how they came up with these rules, and to see if there might be hope yet for our series. She reports her findings to Carol Sutton Lewis, who has a whole other set of rules for telling these stories.