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Imprisoned, Erased, Repressed, Innovative: Hidden stories of LGBT+ scientists – Festival of Ideas

June 14, 2018 @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Diverse scientists are ideally placed to use their unique experiences to ‘imagine the impossible’ and solve challenging problems. But perhaps surprisingly LGBT+ scientists are often invisible.

David Smith of the University of York discusses how science can potentially benefit from a diverse range of individuals with unique life experiences and varied ways of thinking. Join him as he explores the stories of LGBT+ scientists, highlighting cutting-edge science and the politics of diversity.

David’s talk will start with the best known, but most tragically mistreated gay scientist – Alan Turing, imprisoned for his sexuality, in spite of his genius.  He will then discuss less well-known individuals with fascinating and compelling stories, such as transgender computer pioneer Lynn Conway who had her contributions systematically erased for many years.

Other scientists highlighted will include astrophysicist Rachael Padman who was vigorously opposed when, as a transgender woman, she was elected Fellow of all-female Newnham College in Cambridge.  Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, yet only after her death was her long-term partnership with another woman revealed.

David’s talk will also highlight ongoing work of LGBT+ scientists, both in research and activism. For example, ‘out’ lesbian Pakistani scientist Nergi Mavalvala played a key role in detecting gravitational waves and speaks passionately about her multiple identities.  In the context of his own research, David will explore how his life experiences as a gay man influenced the direction of research projects in his lab. It also encouraged him to advocate for greater visibility for LGBT+ scientists to show the next generation they can succeed whoever they are.

Find out why, in terms of innovation, diversity is a strength not a weakness.

About the speaker

David K Smith is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of York, where he specialises in nanotechnology. He uses innovative approaches to encourage people to engage with science. His YouTube channel explains the chemistry behind various subjects, from painkillers and curries, to the television shows Breaking Bad and Wonders of Life. Watch his videos at www.youtube.com/user/ProfessorDaveatYork

In addition to LGBT+ advocacy, David is passionate about widening participation in Higher Education to under-represented groups.  You can find out more about David’s diversity work here.


June 14, 2018
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm


York Festival of Ideas
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Ron Cooke Hub
Heslington East Campus
York, YO10 5DD United Kingdom
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