Misogynist Trolls Attacked Black Hole Scientist Katie Bouman—But Her Coworker Shut Them The Hell Down

On April 10, a photograph of a black hole, the first ever taken, went viral. That was no surprise. But a second photo went viral, too—one of a woman named Dr. Katie Bouman, who was part of the team that captured the image, and that one wasn’t planned.

The picture, which Bouman posted to her own Facebook account, shows her smiling almost in disbelief as the first image of the cosmic phenomenon was rendered on the computer screen in front of her. It’s an amazing picture that captures true wonder.

An MIT account for their largest research lab, Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab, tweeted the image, writing, “Here’s the moment when the first black hole image was processed, from the eyes of researcher Katie Bouman.”

The same account had also posted a tweet about Bouman and the project Wednesday morning.

Writer Flora Graham tweeted a picture of Dr. Bouman side by side with a picture of Margaret Hamilton, the MIT computer scientist who helped write the software for the Apollo program.

And @MIT_CSAIL sent a similar tweet, too.

All of these tweets went viral. Just as so many people wanted to celebrate the brilliant young scientist for her achievement, many of them (mostly men) wanted to take her down for daring to somehow become the face of a project that involved the work of many.

Posts began to pop up disparaging Bouman on YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter.

Someone set up a fake Twitter account in Bouman’s name because that’s a thingtrolls love to do. But Dr. Bouman doesn’t even use Twitter, as someone pointed out in the comments, which is probably why she’s managed to get so much done in her life (right, that and that she’s probably a genius).

Trolls found out the name of the primary developer on the project, Andrew Chael, and decided that he was the hero and that we should ignore Bouman.

People claimed that Chael had written over 850,000 lines of code for the program, information they’d gleaned from GitHub.

Speaking to The Washington Post, Chael explained, “It was clearly started by people who were upset that a woman had become the face of this story and decided, ‘I’m going to find someone who reflects my narrative instead.’”

Chael knew he had to step in and say something. “Once I realized that many online commentators were using my name and image to advance a sexist agenda to claim that Katie’s leading role in our global team was invented, I felt I should say something to make it clear I rejected that view,” Chael told CNN.

So Chael took to Twitter to set the record straight.

Chael wasn’t down with anyone bashing a woman’s contribution to the project when women are already so vastly underrepresented in STEM fields. He told CNN that as a gay man, he’s also part of a marginalized demographic.

Oh, and that thing about writing the 850,000 lines of code? Not even true.

People on Twitter were glad that Chael said something, but it sucks that it had to be a guy.

It also sucks that even after reading Chael’s tweets, some people remained unconvinced that Bouman was worthy of the attention she was getting.

And it also sucks that so much blame was heaped on Bouman, who never even came close to claiming she’d done it all herself.

Bouman told CNN, “No one of us could’ve done it alone. It came together because of lots of different people from many backgrounds.”

On her Facebook, Bouman posted a picture on April 10 of the entire team and wrote,

No one algorithm or person made this image, it required the amazing talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work todevelop the instrument, data processing, imaging methods, and analysis techniques that were necessary to pull off this seemingly impossible feat. It has been truly an honor, and I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with you all.

If Katie Bouman had been male, none of this would even have occurred. It just shows how far we’ve still got to go until women really are considered equal to men.

h/t: Twitter: @thisgreyspirit, CNN, Bored Panda