MEDIA, Pa. — Penn State Brandywine faculty members Timothy Lawlor, associate professor of physics and astrophysics, and Timothy Niiler, associate teaching professor of physics, recently published a paper in The Physics Teacher titled “Physics Textbooks from 1960–2016: A History of Gender and Racial Bias,” which describes how gender and racial biases are evident in images used in physics textbooks published over the last several decades.
“Our paper is about the lack of diversity in the field of physics at all levels of education from undergraduates to professors, and it specifically spotlights the lack of diversity seen in images of people in physics textbooks,” Lawlor explained.
Their collaboration started with an informal conversation on campus, but quickly turned into an idea for a publication. The team designed a counting method and began to tally images in physics textbooks by type. Lawlor and Niiler assumed they would find biases in early books, but “were not expecting the lack of diversity in textbook images to be so pervasive in modern books,” Lawlor said.