On Tuesday, optical physicist Donna Strickland became the third woman to have been awarded a Nobel Physics Prize. She is now the only living Nobel laureate woman in the field.
To call her work on ultrashort lasers, which enable ophthalmologists perform critical surgeries of the eye, groundbreaking will be an understatement. With Gérard Mourou and Arthur Ashkin – the two others who share the 2018 prize – Strickland compressed light to create useful tools.
So when interested people tried to find more information on her, they went to Google and expected that the search engine will return her Wikipedia page. But to their shock, there was no Wikipedia page on Donna Strickland.
According to Quartz, the page didn’t exist until before she won the Nobel Prize. The report says that on 23 May, a Wikipedia editor rejected a draft of an article about Strickland stating that it failed to “show significant coverage (not just passing mentions) about the subject”.
According to the draft that was rejected, Strickland was then the associate chair of the physics department at University of Waterloo in Canada and a past president of the Optical Society.
Today marks the first day in my lifetime that there’s been a living recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics who is a woman-Donna Strickland. Although, her university hasn’t promoted her to full professor and she didn’t have a Wikipedia page until ~2 hours ago.
— Dr. Jamie R Lomax (@jrlomax) October 2, 2018
Before getting her own page on Wikipedia following her Nobel win, the only place in Wikipedia database where Strickland found mention was in an article about Mourou.
Marie Curie and theoretical physicist Maria Goeppert-Mayer were the only women before Strickland to have won the Nobel Prize for Physics – an honour that has been bestowed on 209 recipients till date.
Quartz reports that only 17 per cent of the current biographical entries on Wikipedia are about women and even less so on women in science.