*bird wrote:I don't necessarily see it as that. I actually think Randall's point was that Marie Curie is pretty much the one of the only female scientists that gets recognized at a layman level, which is true.
The deeper question is "how many scientists/mathematicians can the layman name? How many would they recognize?"
They would almost certainly recognize Hawking (and maybe
Penrose, but a lot less likely) and Einstein. They would probably recognize Oppenheimer, but anecdotally in my experience I'd bet most wouldn't recognize von Neumann. They'd probably recognize Marie Curie, naturally, and Carver. Going way back we'd probably get a glimmer of recognition for Newton (but not Leibniz) and they are then more likely to talk about apples and gravity than they are calculus or forces. One would probably get a glimmer of recognition from people who have buildings named after them (Goddard) but would also probably be hard-pressed to say what they did. They might recognize Nash (mostly because of the movie), but probably not Selten and Harsanyi. They might recognize Watson and Crick but probably not Maurice Wilkins or Rosalind Franklin.
The point: it isn't just a matter of "black," "white," "male," "female" or any other such categories. I'd guess that people are just not that educated into who is responsible for certain achievements unless those achievements can be readily parsed by the layman and—in many cases—unless that individual is in some other way remarkable or published on a lay-scale. Noether's primary works are in abstract algebra (when by-and-large if I tell people I'm studying "algebra" they'll say I studied that in high school
) and is famous in part for not even being accessible for other mathematicians, let alone to laypeople.
There are certainly key examples that are used everywhere in schools of famous scientists, and a lot of those are because of some particular human interest associated with them or because they were responsible for something that has immediate application, it's also—I would guess—a very short list.