The hero myth and the rhetoric of science

with Brigitte Van Tiggelen



Brigitte is the only guest that has appeared on the podcast twice. You may remember her from episode #7, when we talked about Marie Curie on the occasion of her birthday. Conversations with Brigitte are very interesting and I think we could have an entire podcast series together! In this episode, we expand on the topic of "icons in science" that somehow we touched with Marie Curie. Marie, as well as Einstein, are probably the most... iconic scientists of the modern times. We look up to them, we don't dare dream to be like them, because they were geniuses, like super humans, everything came easy to them... but did it? Were they "geniuses"? Were they lonely geniuses? What does it mean?

"While heroic stories try to convey the human side of science, actually miss the point." How? They pin down to one person discoveries and achievements that were made possible by teams of people over a period of time. Science is a process in which every person counts. The hero story gives the false impression that all is done by one person, and everyone else is "interchangeable", which is actually de-humanising.
"Science is foremost a human activity". We need narratives about science, but we need to be careful with their implications. Another interesting podcast episode with Brigitte, historian of science, and brilliant conversation partner.

Among other appointments, Brigitte is Director of the European Operations at the Science History Institute, Chair of the division of History of Chemistry inside the European Chemical Society, and associate at the Centre d'histoire des sciences et des techniques de l'Université catholique de Louvain à Louvain-la-Neuve, in Belgium.

2019 is the European Year of the Periodic Table and Brigitte is working on a new book that talks about "women behind the periodic table," expected for release in the fall 2019.