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An image of a black hole captured much of the internet and the world on Wednesday, and now we know a 29-year-old woman was behind it.
Katie Bouman, who received her Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), designed the algorithm that made it possible to construct images of the black hole. She shared her pure moment of excitement watching the image being reconstructed on Facebook yesterday.
Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed.Posted by Katie Bouman on Wednesday, April 10, 2019
It’s a historic moment not just for her, but for any current and future female scientist, as many women and organizations noted on Twitter.
This is Dr Katie Bouman. She's the computer scientist that created the algorithm that turned telescopic data in to the now famous first image of a black hole.— Vicky (@earthbasedfun) April 11, 2019
I think it’s important to share particularly for girls who want to study science and still feel they can’t or shouldn’t pic.twitter.com/M656UtxOns
Katie Bouman — a grad student!! — created the algorithm that allowed a network of telescopes to work together and capture the first ever image of a black hole. She should be a household name after this. Let’s HOLLA FOR WOMEN IN STEM!! #WomenInSTEM #STEMeducation https://t.co/T8z9hXnZlh— Sophia Bush (@SophiaBush) April 11, 2019
That black hole photo that was everywhere yesterday? You can thank a woman, Katie Bouman, an MIT grad student developed a crucial algorithm that helped devise imaging methods. Congrats on this amazing contribution to science, Katie! https://t.co/Jngkw9Ow45 #WomenIgnitingChange— Women Igniting Change® (@womenigniting) April 11, 2019
I called my daughters, 9 and 13, into my office this morning to show them what Katie Bouman had done with getting the first image of a black hole. Science needs more women.— Adam B (@aburtt) April 11, 2019
But because we can’t celebrate a woman in history without a few flubs, several media outlets neglected to acknowledge that she is no longer a graduate student but a professional with her Ph.D., which she received in 2017. Amid the hype of honoring such an incredible feat for women in STEM, most people missed this discrepancy. Some did call it out, though.
If you're sharing something about the woman who created the image of the first black hole. PLEASE USE Dr. Katie Bouman!!!— Dr. Lauren Drogos (@LDrogosPhD) April 11, 2019
She has earned that title, & media seems to like to strip it from their articles, esp. in women and URM.
Say her name! Women in STEM! Congratulations Dr. Katie Bouman.— Shreyasee Das (@shreyaseedas) April 10, 2019
And let's also get everyone to put that Dr. in front of her name! https://t.co/7bup27jHHd
Bouman’s success was a long time coming. In a 2016 TED Talk, she discussed the how-tos of capturing the image and basically making history.
“Although we have some idea as to what a black hole might look like, we’ve never actually taken a picture of one before,” she said during her speech. “However, you might be surprised to know that that may soon change.”
Indeed, it soon did. Her contribution to science is already huge—not only with the image itself, but also with setting an example to girls and women across the world who want to pursue science. Women in STEM already face their share of challenges, especially for those pursuing Ph.D., which is why it stings that her title was not widely acknowledged. But her accomplishments speak for themselves.
Soon, Bauman will join the California Institute of Technology as an assistant professor.
Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque