Yet another thing Doctor Who does very well: portraying women in science

New research shows that the BBC sci-fi show is ahead of its time when it comes to female scientists

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Unsurprisingly for a time travelling show, Doctor Who has proved impressively ahead of its time when it comes to women in science.

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New research revealed from the Australian National University suggests that Doctor Who has promoted female scientists throughout the show’s history.

Published on The Conversation, researchers Rachel Morgain and Lindy Othia analysed characters featured over 50 years of Doctor Who who were portrayed as scientists.

“The overarching message is that anyone can be a scientist,” they write, “and these days [in Doctor Who] about half of scientists are women.”

They identify 222 human scientists in the show from 1963 to 2013. Out of those characters, 56 were women. However, they also point out that the trend has been “towards greater equality over time”, and that by the 2000s almost half of the scientists featured on the show were women.

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As well as the raw data, they pointed to particular examples of how Doctor Who had portrayed women performing science, highlighting characters such as scientific advisor Anne Travers (Tina Packer) from 1968 story The Web of Fear.

The research also claimed that 71 per cent of female scientists held positions of authority or worked autonomously in Doctor Who, compared to 83 per cent of men.

“Fast forward to today, and women are now comparable on nearly every trait, are shown in almost equal numbers, and regularly play the leading role in the show’s science,” the authors write.

“For example, there are characters such as Nasreen Chaudhry, a geoscience engineer who runs a deep crust mining operation, Dee Dee Blasco, a student astronomer whose logic saves tourists stranded on a hostile planet, or Kate Stewart and Osgood, who scienced the show to its 50th anniversary.”

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Check out the full research at The Conversation here.