Wikipedia Dispatches: LGBT Physicists and Astronomers

Wikipedia Dispatches: LGBT Physicists and Astronomers

Wikipedia in print as of January 2020. 2657 volumes, 14 stacks

A hypothetical representation of Wikipedia in print as of January 2020. 2657 volumes, 14 stacks. The current count as of this writing is 3278 volumes and 17 stacks (June 16, 2023). Credit: Wikipedia user The_Anome


When looking for information on underrepresented people in any field, it is oftentimes tricky to find people. This is due to a number of factors; in many cases, marginalized people can be reticent to discuss the topic of identity and personal life outside of work. It can be very useful, and indeed vital, to know of people who belong to underrepresented groups in the history of physics: for studying trends and understanding how a field works and how to make it more attractive and a welcoming environment for everyone, for making connections with people still alive, and for having role models. 

The Niels Bohr Library & Archives (NBLA) has been quite active on Wikipedia, the world’s largest encyclopedia and the 7th most visited website in the world, lately - check out our project page! Due primarily to the success and endeavors of our phenomenal former Wikipedian-in-Residence, Camryn Bell, our Wikipedia contributions have exploded in the last year (check out our other Wikipedia-related blog articles to see more of her work), and we recently hosted an Edit-a-thon, led by our wonderful SPS Intern MJ Keller (blog post on this here!). Continuing this trend, we at NBLA created the category pages LGBT physicists and LGBT astronomers, which did not previously exist on Wikipedia*.

We need your help to add articles to these categories! We have been adding physicists and astronomers who self-identify in these categories:

LGBT physicists

LGBT astronomers

Please join us in this effort! Editing Wikipedia is free and easy and it’s something everyone can do. You can even edit without creating an account, though it can be fun to do so (link to account creation page). If you need help editing Wikipedia for the first time, check out the Wikipedia editor introduction page, and you can ask us for help by emailing [email protected]

Here are some basic instructions for adding categories to an article in Visual Editor mode:

  • Log in to Wikipedia (optional)
  • Find article in question (ex. Sally Ride)
  • Hit “Edit” on the top right side of the article
  • Scroll all the way to the bottom to the Categories box
  • Click on the Categories box
  • Type in the category name (capitalization matters!) - LGBT physicists or LGBT astronomers
  • Hit Apply changes
  • Scroll to the top and select “Publish”


Here are a few people I learned about from Wikipedia due to this initiative!

Omer Blaes

Omer Blaes. From Wikipedia: "His research focuses on theoretical astrophysics (X- and gamma-ray astronomy) and compact objects (white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes). Much of his work in astrophysics focuses on the physics of accretion on black holes. He has looked at magneto rotational instability (MRI) and MRI turbulence in the innermost parts of accretion disks." 

Image caption: Portrait of Omer Blaes, courtesy


Astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala in an MIT lab, 2010

Nergis Mavalvala. From Wikipedia: "Mavalvala has worked on the development of exotic quantum states of light, and in particular the generation of light in squeezed coherent states. By injecting such states into the kilometer-scale Michelson interferometer of the LIGO detectors, her group greatly improved the sensitivity of the detector by reducing quantum noise; such squeezed states also have many other applications in experimental physics." NBLA holds an oral history interview with Mavalvala; find it here.

Image caption:  Astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala in an MIT lab, 2010. Credit: Photo by Darren McCollester/for MacArthur Foundation


Rebecca Oppenheimer

Rebecca Oppenheimer. From Wikipedia: “She holds three patents, is the co-discoverer of the first brown dwarf, Gliese 229B, and is active in research on exoplanets. She has led or co-led many novel instrumentation projects, including the Lyot Project, Project 1640, the Gemini Planet Imager, Palomar Adaptive Optics, and the Palomar Advanced Radial Velocity Instrument.”

Image caption: Rebecca Oppenheimer, courtesy


Clyde Wahrhaftig

Clyde Wahrhaftig. From Wikipedia: "Wahrhaftig was a dedicated user of public transportation, partially motivated by his concern about the environment impact of fossil fuels. He eschewed automobiles and airplanes and routinely traveled by sea to his field work in Alaska. He continued to use horse-pack trains while working in the field for as long as the USGS permitted it. His support of public transportation also helped him fulfill his commitment to making geology accessible to the public by writing field guides that could be understood by laymen and did not require long trips by car to see the relevant sites. Some of his most popular field guides include Streetcar to Subduction and Other Plate Tectonic Trips by Public Transport in San Francisco, A Walker's Guide to the Geology of San Francisco, and The Hayward Fault in Hayward and Fremont, via BART."

Image caption: Clyde Wahrhaftig. Credit: Scott Sine, NPS

* When creating these new category pages, we followed Wikipedia’s guidelines on categorization. For more information, see Wikipedia’s Category names page and Categorization/sexuality page:

About the Author

Corinne Mona

Corinne Mona

Corinne Mona is the Head Editor of the Ex Libris Universum blog. She is also Assistant Librarian at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives. In addition to a master's degree in library & information science, she also holds advanced degrees in music performance and French. Here at the Niels Bohr Library and Archives, she wrangles books and journals by cataloging, shifting, buying, and promoting them. Corinne considers herself a librarian flutist or flutist librarian depending on the day, as she is also a professional musician and flute teacher. Outside of work, she also loves reading, baking, and studying animals, especially true seals.  One of her favorite books from the library is Women Spacefarers by Umberto Cavallero.

Caption: Astronaut Catherine Coleman is featured in the book Women Spacefarers. She played this traditional Irish flute and tin whistle in space on St. Patrick’s Day in 2011 at the International Space Station. Photo is public domain through NASA.

See all articles by Corinne Mona

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