The Last “Other”: Scientists with Disabilities and the Remaking of Worlds

Jessica Martucci

Science History Institute

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - 12:00pm

Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Join us for a talk by Jessica Martucci, research fellow at the Science History Institute.
Achieving “success” in STEM fields has long hinged on a widely embraced belief that institutions involved in STEM operate on a system of unassailable meritocratic principles: only the best and brightest make it. This entrenched narrative of the meritocracy has often served as a shield against truly probing critiques of STEM institutions as unfairly exclusionary. From 19th-century arguments about the physical infirmities of women to contemporary debates over the legitimacy of virtual fieldwork in the geosciences, STEM fields have championed the claim of meritocracy with one hand while barring the door with the other. The shortcomings of the meritocracy claim came under increasing cultural and legal scrutiny beginning in the 1960s, a result of the era’s important social movements to extend equal opportunities and citizenship rights to all Americans, regardless of gender, race, sexual identity, or disability status. While these efforts manifested real legislative gains by requiring access to education and employment, the long-standing power of the meritocracy has persisted in tension with stated objectives to increase diversity in STEM. This talk examines the lives of six scientists with disabilities born between 1948 and 1991 as a means to understanding how the world-making ideology of the meritocracy—and the infrastructures, cultures, and knowledge it has produced—has both shaped and been shaped by scientists with disabilities over the past 75 years.
About the Speaker
Jessica Martucci earned her master’s degree in bioethics and her PhD in the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of numerous scholarly and popular works, including her book Back to the Breast: Natural Motherhood and Breastfeeding America (University of Chicago Press, 2015). She is the lead researcher behind the Institute’s Science and Disability Project, which is part of her broader interest in understanding the mechanisms and effects of exclusion and inclusion in science, medicine, and public history.
About the Series
Lunchtime Lectures are a series of (mostly) weekly, informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of the Institute staff and fellows and interested members of the public.