I Wonder... Issue 05

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As a child growing up in rural Kerala, my chief entertainment was reading: mostly science, history of science and, also, biographies of scientists. To me, science seemed pure and uncluttered by politicking. I thought of scientists as completely rational beings, driven only by a desire to uncover the mysteries of the universe. In my mind, they were impartial observers, experimenters and thinkers, untouched by personal prejudices But, as I grew up, I came to realise that this was far from the truth. No doubt, the history of science has many examples of cooperation between scientists, often from multiple disciplines, working together to uncover the mysteries of nature. But, it is also peppered with examples of prejudice, power play, factionalism, politics and one-upmanship. One such example is the exciting story of the uncovering of the structure of DNA shared in this issue’s ‘Discovering the Helical Staircase’. Every time I dwell on this path-breaking discovery, I am left with deep sadness at how one of the scientists who contributed significantly to this achievement – Rosalind Franklin – received hardly any credit for it. This is a reflection of how women scientists were systematically relegated to the background in those days. The men who dominated science wanted to keep it that way – dominated by men. How much more would science have progressed if women had been given their rightful say and encouragement?
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