Telling the Story of Invisible Workers in Science

Eun-Joo Ahn
Thursday, February 1, 2024
3:30 pm
ISEB 1010


Why do we remember some scientists while forgetting others who participated in the same scientific work? Moving away from prominent scientists and focusing on the invisible workers can highlight the role of gender, race, and class in scientific knowledge-making. I tell the story of some of the workers at Mount Wilson Observatory (MWO), which includes human computers and telescope operators. Founded by astrophysicist George Ellery Hale in 1904 in the San Gabriel Mountains near Pasadena, many scientists and historians regard MWO as one of the most prominent observatories during the first half of the twentieth century. Scientists in positions of power, such as the observatory director, enforced geographical separation and gender division among the staff when carrying out astronomical research, reasoning work efficiency. Subsequent narratives of MWO that focused on famous astronomical and technological accomplishments further obscured these workers. Taking into account the contribution made by these forgotten workers can enrich our understanding of science and provide insights into creating a more equitable environment. 

Juan Pedro Ochoa Ricoux