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The Real History of Science

About 70% of researchers around the world are men. Majority of scientists in the US are white men. In the UK, only 12% of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) workforce is comprised of people from ethnic minorities. Those who are underrepresented in science face systemic barriers preventing them from entering; these barriers are more pronounced when these gender and race variables intersect. We are generally taught that modern science was born in Europe. But this isn't true - the birth of modern science was a global undertaking. The work of Copernicus wouldn't have been possible without Muslim scientists, Syrian mathematicians, and a Persian astronomer. We know this from his citations. Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution relied on data from a Chinese encyclopedia, and Newton cited experiments from Asia, Africa and the Americas when writing about his theory of gravity. These are a few examples that represent a broader theme - global information exchange was crucial to the birth of modern day science. Yet we are generally taught that a select few European men laid all of the groundwork for the rest of us. At a time when science remains rife with inequalities, we need to remember that those who have been systemically held back from modern science were crucial players in its development; women and non-Europeans alike. Getting the history right - and adding it to the classrooms and curricula - will be a big step forward in the push for equality in science.
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