What once was a figment of amorphous scientific predictions finally became a reality on Wednesday after scientists released the first-ever photograph of a black hole. While much of the public was awestruck by the long-anticipated photo, others were making sure that the woman behind this remarkable moment— computer scientist Katie Bouman—doesn’t get lost in history books.
Congratulations to Katie Bouman to whom we owe the first photograph of a black hole ever. Not seeing her name circulate nearly enough in the press.
Amazing work. And here’s to more women in science (getting their credit and being remembered in history) 💥🔥☄️ pic.twitter.com/wcPhB6E5qK
— Tamy Emma Pepin (@TamyEmmaPepin) April 10, 2019
Bouman is a postdoctoral fellow working with the Event Horizon Telescope team that released the revolutionary photograph. Bouman also led the development of a new algorithm to produce the first-ever image of a black hole as a grad student at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory three years ago. Her groundbreaking algorithm stitched together “data collected from radio telescopes scattered around the globe,” reported MIT News.
“Just like how radio frequencies will go through walls, they pierce through galactic dust. We would never be able to see into the center of our galaxy in visible wavelengths because there’s too much stuff in between,” Bouman told MIT News in 2016. “[Taking a picture of the black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy is] equivalent to taking an image of a grapefruit on the moon, but with a radio telescope.”
The fruits of her labor were only released on Wednesday. But, as news broke about the monumental discovery, Bouman’s crucial contribution to the project appeared to go largely overlooked. Many organizations credited the entire Event Horizon Telescope team who worked to capture the image and praised Albert Einstein’s theories on general relativity for predicting what the black hole might look like.
But, people online are making sure Bouman doesn’t become yet another hidden figure. Users posted photos of Katie and asking people to give the trailblazing scientist credit— like a Nobel Prize.
“BBC News, Could Katie get a mention in the article itself and not just a credit on the photo?” wrote one user.
“Not on my watch!” tweeted another user. “Sick of women in the room but not in the Nobel Prize room.”
3 years ago MIT grad student Katie Bouman led the creation of a new algorithm to produce the first-ever image of a black hole.
Today, that image was released.
More info: https://t.co/WITAL1omGl
2016 story: https://t.co/QV7Zf2snEP#EHTblackhole #EventHorizonTelescope pic.twitter.com/u6FBswmGDZ
— MIT CSAIL (@MIT_CSAIL) April 10, 2019
Some people online proposed that the science community name the groundbreaking discovery after Bouman herself.
“Why not name it the Bouman Black Hole, and get scifi writers slip a reference into their characters' lines?” one Twitter user suggested. “‘Yes captain Bouman, that was the first black hole imaged by your ancestor using Earth's pre-warp imaging technology.’”
Meanwhile, other Twitter users began comparing Bouman to past female hidden figures including Rosalind Franklin, the pioneering molecular biologist who contributed to our modern understandings of DNA, and Margaret Hamilton, the largely unknown MIT female computer scientist who pioneered the “software” technology that landed astronauts on the moon.
“Computer scientist Katie Bouman and her awesome stack of hard drives for #EHTblackhole image data,” Nature News writer Flora Graham tweeted with an image of the two MIT computer scientists side by side. “Reminds me of Margaret Hamilton and her Apollo Guidance Computer source code.”
Computer scientist Katie Bouman and her awesome stack of hard drives for #EHTblackhole image data 😍 — reminds me of Margaret Hamilton and her Apollo Guidance Computer source code. 👩🏽🔬 pic.twitter.com/MgOXiDCAKi
— Flora Graham (@floragraham) April 10, 2019
Yahoo Lifestyle has reached out to Katie Bouman for comment and will update this story when we hear back.
See all the best reactions to the Black Hole here:
Rosalind Franklin is somewhere smiling at #KatieBouman!!! 💕
— Dan Oberste ReFeRrAl CoDe dan39283 (@Cowcumber) April 10, 2019
Congrats to Katie! What an incredible day, thanks to her brilliant work. You can see Katie in the moment when the photo was captured, in our new doc about this discovery, Black Hole Hunters: https://t.co/dUM4rWTOwb
— Smithsonian Channel (@SmithsonianChan) April 10, 2019
I've saved this for my 4 year old daughter who is asking "what do scientists do"
— Graeme Downie (@graemedownie) April 10, 2019
Can the M87 blackhole be officially renamed after her?
— CMDR Lutzie (@CMDR_Lutzie) April 10, 2019
Damn I'm so proud??????? She better get a Nobel Peace Prize for this! 👏👏👏
— KenD6-3.7 (@kenxkai) April 10, 2019
— Jonathan Frascella (@Joffff) April 10, 2019
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