Scientist Katie Bouman is first to capture picture of black hole

Female scientist makes waves in her field

On Wednesday, April 11, the first ever image of a black hole – an area in space where the gravitational pull is strong enough to consume light – was released, and it wasn’t a man who rendered it. 29-year-old computer scientist Katie Bouman did.

Bouman worked as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she started developing the algorithm that ultimately made the entire picture possible. After scattering telescopes with the ability to collect high-frequency radio waves at different sites around the world, Bouman and her team had to figure out how to successfully piece together the data, and her algorithm did just that.

In a picture Bouman posted on Facebook, she’s sitting in front of her computer with her hands covering her mouth, having just produced the first image of a black hole. Bouman confirms her incredulity in her caption: “Watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed.”

Bouman worked with numerous people in the process, several of which come from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the MIT Haystack Observatory. In spite of this, she has been facing endless criticism regarding her contributions to the project, which isn’t entirely surprising considering she’s a female in a male-dominated industry.

People are targeting Bouman for not having accomplished as much as she’s being recognized for. In fact, false claims have been made stating that her male colleague wrote 850,000 of the 900,000 lines of code, when in reality, there were only 68,000 lines of code in the software. The extent to which self-absorbed males try to credit themselves for the work done by powerful women is incredible. The saddest part is, this happens frequently in modern day society.

When it comes to more advanced fields, females are often regarded as incapable of performing this difficult work. Yet, every time they’re given the opportunity, they end up going down in history. Katherine Johnson made the calculations allowing astronauts to be sent into space. Marie Curie created mobile radiography units after discovering radioactivity. Ada Lovelace developed the mathematical algorithms that made the functioning computer possible. All of these advancements were breakthroughs in science and technology, and all of them were made by women. No one seems to take the hint.

A large number of the most celebrated technological accomplishments have been contributions made by females. So, every time a man targets a woman on social media, he should probably take that into consideration. Next time you think a woman can’t do something, think again.