Another way to count the books

I asked a sociologist why there are more kids books about Curie than Einstein. He looked puzzled for a moment and then responded, “Of course! If your going to write a book about a scientist for girls you don’t have that many options, but if you are writing a book for boys there are so many options.” This would quite naturally inflate the number of books about the individual female scientists. In this scenario it is crucial to consider how many of the total quantity of books about each scientist are written about men and how many are written about women.

The initial data would seem to support this. While the woman and the black man are each respectively the most written about scientist and inventor, women and blacks are still dramatically underrepresented in the total quantity of books.

Children's Books in english by Gender

Children's Books in english by Race

Still, they are represented much more equitably in children’s literature than in books for a adult audience. See the charts below.

Books for adult audience sorted by the gender of their subject

Books about black scientists compared to white scientists

Final thoughts: I find it fascinating that the percentages for gender and race mirror each other so perfectly. In some sense it makes the comparison all the more powerful. While gender and race are radically different it is interesting to see that they have such a closely mirrored place in children’s books about scientists and inventors.

I think there is something to this sociologists idea but I am not sure it quite satisfies me. It is still nonetheless interesting. The next project is to historicize the information. The next way I want to play with the numbers is to see when Curie and Edison became the most written about scientist and inventor.

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