Online Trolls Claim Male Scientist, Not Katie Bouman, Behind 'Black Hole' Photo

Photo courtesy of Katie Bouman

Online trolls are trying to discredit the contributions of Katie Bouman by calling Andrew Chael the ‘real’ researcher.

29-year-old researcher Katherine Bouman has become the face of the black hole project, and rightfully so—she was a crucial contributor to the central algorithm that allowed scientists to capture the first-ever photograph of a black hole. But she has recently become the target of some online users trying to discredit her contributions to the huge project because of her gender, The Hill reports.

After the National Science Foundation released the first-ever black hole image on Wednesday, another picture showing Bouman reacting in disbelief quickly began to spread just as fast. The photo of Bouman with her hands over her mouth in excitement has become a symbol of female accomplishment in STEM fields almost overnight.

But with her newfound fame also came a strange bitterness from sexist trolls on Reddit and Twitter, who have created memes comparing their perceptions of her contributions with those of Andrew Chael, a white man and her colleague on the Event Horizon Telescope team.

Trolls said that he had actually performed all of the work in the monumental project, falsely claiming that he had written "850,000 of the 900,000 lines of code that were written in the historic black-hole image algorithm.”

But in a series of tweets on Thursday that have since gone viral, Chael was quick to put the sexist trolls in their place.

In his first tweet in the viral thread, he wrote, “So apparently some (I hope very few) people online are using the fact that I am the primary developer of the eht-imaging software library ... to launch awful and sexist attacks on my colleague and friend Katie Bouman. Stop.”

He continued, “Our papers used three independent imaging software libraries (including one developed by my friend @sparse_k). While I wrote much of the code for one of these pipelines, Katie was a huge contributor to the software; it would have never worked without her contributions and the work of many others who wrote code, debugged, and figured out how to use the code on challenging EHT data.”

“I'm thrilled Katie is getting recognition for her work and that she's inspiring people as an example of women's leadership in STEM. I'm also thrilled she's pointing out that this was a team effort including contributions from many junior scientists, including many women junior scientists,” he continued. “Together, we all make each other's work better; the number of commits doesn't tell the full story of who was indispensable.”

Addressing the "850,000 lines of code" statement, he said "there are about 68,000 lines in the current software, and I don't care how many of those I personally authored."

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