The author has a word or two in response to the review’s criticisms

In her review of my book “The Exceptions: Nancy Hopkins, MIT, and the Fight for Women in Science” (“No Exceptions,” Books, March 12), Ellen Ruppel Shell writes that I relied heavily on Hopkins’ “notes, diaries, and memories in this account, and it shows. One longs to hear the responses of her alleged opponents (not all scientists). In fact, I also spent four years interviewing others involved in the story, which I elaborated on in the note on sources in the book, which of course included Hopkins’ “alleged critics.” I listed those I interviewed in the acknowledgments, and—as any journalist would—I considered their responses and versions when I wrote the book. In some cases, these contradicted Hopkins’ account, and in others they confirmed it, but in both cases the book reflects it.In the limited number of cases where one of these people refused to talk to me, I noted it in the footnotes.

Shell also counts as a “misstep” that I wrote that MIT philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson “developed” the thought experiment known as the trolley problem. “Technically,” Shell tells us, “that distinction belongs to the British philosopher Philippa Ruth Foot.” Shell is right that Foot first perceived the problem. But Thomson really extended the idea, fleshed it out and expanded the question and is known for that work. I didn’t say she conceived, created or first raised it. In a book that spends quite a bit of time discussing attribution and misattribution of credit, “developed” was not a “misstep”; it was a careful choice of words.

Kate Zernike

Montclair, NJ

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