• Exhibition: “Berlin – Capital of Women Scientists”

Emmanuelle Charpentier, Lise Meitner, Cécile Vogt many women scientists in Berlin have made groundbreaking contributions, both then and now. However, this is hardly known to the public. The exhibition “Berlin – Hauptstadt der Wissenschaftlerinnen” (“Berlin - Capital of Women Scientists”) in the Rotes Rathaus presents 20 women pioneers from Brain City Berlin – and thereby gives them more visibility.  

When nuclear physicist Lise Meitner wanted to attend lectures and experiment rooms at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität almost 115 years ago, the forerunner of today's Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, she had to sneak in through the back entrance in order to remain undiscovered as far as possible. That was because women were not allowed to study in the Free State of Prussia until 1908. In 1912 Lise Meitner was the first woman to get a job at the university – as an assistant with Max Planck in Berlin. Ten years later, she became the first female scientist in the Weimar Republic to complete her habilitation in physics. 

Even today, the path of women in science is usually more arduous than that of men. And their achievements and successes are less visible to the outside than those of their colleagues. This also applies to Brain City Berlin, which with around 33 percent of female professors plays a pioneering role in matters of equality among German university cities. 

The exhibition basis: newly created Wikipedia profiles

In order to give women more visibility in science, the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) is currently presenting 20 women pioneers from Brain City Berlin in the exhibition “Berlin - Capital of Women Scientists” in the Rotes Rathaus. The social medicine specialist Theda Borde, who was the rector of the Alice Salomon University in Berlin, is one of the protagonists, as is the chemist Emmanuelle Charpentier, who received the Nobel Prize for her gene shears CrisprCas 2020, the brain researcher Cécile Vogt, who has been nominated 13 times for the Nobel Prize, but has never received it or the sociologist and politician Marlis Dürkop-Leptihn, who was elected first President of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin after 118 male predecessors. The basis of the exhibition are several “edit-a-thons” carried out by the BIH in the past few months, in which people from Berlin created or continued to write Wikipedia entries about women scientists. A total of 16 biographies have been created in this way, 150 existing articles have been updated and expanded. 

All of the female scientists presented in the exhibition have the following in common: They spent at least parts of their research life in Berlin. “Over the decades, many great women scientists have made Berlin the leading innovation metropolis that it is today,” said the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, at the opening. “This exhibition wants to make a contribution to honouring their work and, above all, to call out to every student and young woman: The world of science belongs to you.”

Everyone can continue writing

The exhibition in the Festsaal of the Rotes Rathaus on Alexanderplatz is open until 20 December. Clearly structured, it provides exciting insight into the life and work of the researchers. Karin Höhne, representative for equal opportunities at BIH, who, together with the coordinator Carmen Kurbjuhn, organised and carried out the Wikipedia writing workshop, hopes that the Wikipedia project will continue to exist after the exhibition. That is because just 17 percent of all Wikipedia entries are still dedicated to women. “We assume that most (workshop participants, editor’s note) will continue to research and write after our joint meeting, so that the project will really promote the visibility of women in the long term.” 

“Berlin - Capital of Women Scientists” therefore not only opens up access to knowledge, but also wants to inspire visitors to become active in writing themselves – and thereby to highlight the achievements of Berlin’s women scientists in the public eye properly. Autumn evenings offer the opportunity and free time for it. (vdo)

Exhibition “Berlin – Hauptstadt der Wissenschaftlerinnen” (“Berlin – Capital of Women Scientists”)

20 October to 20 December 2021, Rotes Rathaus, Festsaal, Rathausstrasse 15, 10178 Berlin
Opening times: weekdays 10:00 to 18:00, free admission

In the coming year, “Berlin – Capital of Women Scientists” will be on view as a travelling exhibition at various locations in Berlin. And also on www.bihealth.org

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