Who shall be our heroes in science, and for what deeds? Widespread protest movements during the past few years are confronting past social injustices; monuments are being toppled and buildings renamed. Is it time also for science to have its own reckoning with history? Is it possible, for example, to correct dishonest narratives that are well-entrenched in science’s collective memory? Institutions of science devoted to research-based truths all too often ignore uncomfortable facts emerging from serious historical scholarship. Shall the cultural heritage of science be reduced to branding and uncritical hero-worshiping? I will raise these issues and then turn to the case of Lise Meitner. I will focus especially on the scandal involving with the Nobel committees’ efforts to deny her a prize.
Robert Marc Friedman is professor emeritus of history of science (Oslo) and playwright. Born in Brooklyn, trained at Johns Hopkins, and currently living in Norway. He studies the history of modern physical and environmental sciences; when writing for theatre, he draws upon his research. Friedman’s scholarly and dramatic work have received several international honors, including Tetelman Fellow (Yale) for contributions to the public understanding of science.