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"...oil is first found ... in the minds of men"

Posted: Aug 4 2009 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Gender and Geosciences, History of Geosciences

Wallace Pratt
Wallace Pratt[link '']
The first sentence of the first paper coming out from the Synthesis of Research on Thinking & Learning in the Geosciences says: "Decades ago, pioneering petroleum geologist Wallace Pratt pointed out that oil is first found in the human mind" (Kastens, et al, p. 265.) We use Pratt as a jumping off point to introduce the idea that the human mind is an important geoscience tool, the tool with which geoscientists construct causal and predictive models.

In fact, Pratt's exact words were: "Where oil is first found, in the final analysis, is in the minds of men" (Pratt, 1952). I can't tell you how many edits and revisions and discussions it took, among co-authors, reviewers and editors, to arrive at wording that captures Pratt's prescient insight while avoiding the 1950's vintage phrasing, which sounds sexist to the 21st century ear. More

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"Women Can't be Doctors"

Posted: Aug 1 2009 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Gender and Geosciences
Yesterday was the 18th birthday of my older daughter. Inevitably, my thoughts drifted back over our years together. A vignette flashed through my memory.

We were getting ready for nursery school. Completely out of the blue, Holly announced, "Women can't be doctors."

I managed to assemble an astonished response, "Yes, of course women can be doctors....Honey, your own doctor is a woman." Superimposed thoughts and emotions flew through my head: thanks that I had insisted on a female pediatrician, anger that someone could have told Holly such nonsense, hypotheses about who it might have been.

It took a while for the mis-statement to hit me as a personal affront, rather than as an abstract generalization. And then I stumbled on: "Holly, I am a doctor, your own mother is a doctor." More