Sunday, September 25, 2011

The image of scientists

If you ask anyone, they will tell you that science has transformed their world with amazing discoveries. But then if you invite them to draw a scientist, what they depict is precisely what people would have described 50 years ago: they draw someone with a hangdog look, frizzy hair and test tube in hand, all in a scene where things are going wrong. There are national variations. In Italy, scientists tend to be scarred and have bolts in their necks, like Frankenstein's monster. In general, though, they are mostly white, male, bald and wearing a white coat.

Perhaps it comes from the image of the old Einstein with tongue out - the one everyone knows – the one taken on his 72nd birthday. But he was a dapper 26-year-old when he had his “annus mirabilis” and wrote the four papers that changed physics.

In fact scientists look like anyone else; many of them are women, most of them are young and some even look like Brian Cox who presents science of TV and looks like a rock star.

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