Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!
Today we’re interviewing Ella Schwartz, author of STOLEN SCIENCE: Thirteen Untold Stories of Scientists and Inventors Almost Written out of History.
Mary Kay Carson: Tell us a bit about your book Stolen Science.
Ella Schwartz: Stolen Science is the story of thirteen scientists and inventors who performed ground breaking work but did not get the credit they deserved. I know first-hand just how hard it is for women to be successful in the field. We’ve made great strides in recent years, but time and again women and marginalized groups have had to claw their way to success in the sciences, only to have their discoveries stolen from them – and that’s not fair! I set out to write Stolen Science to finally give credit where credit is due!
MKC: Why did you choose to write the book?
Ella: Picture a scientist in your head. Chances are, that scientist is white, male, and often dead. As a woman with a background in science and engineering, I very rarely got to see someone who looked like me represented in my field. That’s what I set out to fix when I began writing Stolen Science. I feel deeply that children today need to see diversity represented in the sciences. Young girls, children of color, and immigrants must be inspired by example to pursue STEM fields. I set out to write Stolen Science with that goal in mind.
MKC: Stolen Science features lesser-known individuals, many who lived in the 1800s. How did you learn about them?
Ella: When I began researching this book, I wasn’t sure what I’d find. I knew there was probably plenty of scientists who had performed brilliant work that never got the credit they deserved, but I never expected just how many stories I’d uncover! Some of the stories from the 1800s were tricky to research, but thankfully these stories are beginning to come to light. For example, Mary Anning is one of the scientists I feature in the book. I’m pleased to see a lot of recent publications on this fierce and brave scientist.
MKC: It sounds like you spent some quality time in research archives and libraries. Do you have a favorite discovery you’d like to share?
Ella: The research for this book was, at times, intense! One of my favorite stories in the book is on Jo Anderson, an enslaved man who invented the mechanical reaper that became the backbone of the industrial revolution. There hasn’t been a lot of research on Jo Anderson so telling his story required me to dig deep into research. I knew this was a story that deserved to be told and I was honored to tell it. But I also knew this was a big responsibility. I had to get the story right. I’m very grateful to the staff at the Wisconsin Historical Society for sharing original letters and documents on Jo Anderson that helped me form the true story of this incredible man.
MKC: Why do you choose to write STEM books? Is it your background?
Ella: I do have a STEM background! I received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering and have had a twenty+ year career in cybersecurity. When I’m not writing, I work as a cybersecurity professional on federal government initiatives. I started writing STEM books because a writing mentor once told me “write what you know.” That seemed to make sense at the time. But I kept on writing STEM books because I truly feel STEM must be open for everyone. It doesn’t matter what your gender, color, background, or religion is. STEM is for you.
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