Katie Bouman / Facebook

Everyone is celebrating Katie Bouman, the woman behind the black hole image

Hooray for women in STEM!


Samira Sadeque

Internet Culture

Published Apr 11, 2019   Updated May 20, 2021, 3:05 pm CDT

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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*First Published: Apr 11, 2019, 1:15 pm CDT