LGBT+ in the Sciences

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Photos of the Month - June 2018

Audrey Lengel, Photo Archivist

As we’ve reflected on in previous Photos of the Month notes, many past and current physicists have faced setbacks due to exclusion, discrimination, harassment, and isolation, often related to gender, ethnicity, or race, yet have still made phenomenal contributions to the physical sciences. June is LGBT Pride Month in the United States, and so I’ve selected some archival images of physicists who identified either as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or any other non-cis/straight orientation, either during their career in science or later in life.

Various organizations, such as the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, oSTEM, and lgbt+physicists, have formed to help create a more inclusive and welcoming field for LGBT+ students and scientists, but as this APS Ad-Hoc Committee on LGBT Issues report recommends, we have a long way to go until the profession is fully supportive of physicists who identify as LGBT+. This month, join me in looking back at the LGBT+ scientists (such as Sally Ride and Ron Buckmire) who made their way through environments that often did not fully support them, and in reflecting upon our shared history from their points of view.

A group shot of Caltech graduates Vernon Hughes, W.K.H. Panofsky, Edward Deeds, and Clyde Wahrhaftig (front, center). Wahrhaftig, recipient of the Geological Society of America’s “Distinguished Career Award,” came out in 1989 after a long relationship with Allan Cox, known for his work on Earth’s magnetic reversals.

Credit line: SLAC, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, at a conference. After Ride passed away in 2012, her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy, penned her obituary and confirmed their relationship to the public.

Credit line: Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Steve Boggs receiving the 1991 Lyman Award from Ansel Anderson. Boggs, the current chair of the UC Berkeley Physics Department, has spoken previously and made recommendations on how academic departments can create welcoming environments for LGBT+ students, faculty, and staff.

Credit line: Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Andrew Hodges, mathematician and author of Alan Turing: The Enigma, is an advocate for gay rights and was involved in the early gay liberation movement in the 1970s.

Credit line: Photograph by Ed Heath, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection

Ron Buckmire, Abba Gumel, Ron Mickens, and Talitha Washington at a 2013 meeting. Buckmire (left), Professor of Mathematics at Occidental College, is active in the LGBT+ community, works on issues such as same-sex marriage and queer immigration, and co-founded the Barbara Jordan/Bayard Rustin Coalition.

Credit line: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Ronald E. Mickens Collection