Tough 60s chick disappoints woke young interviewer

Quanta — — always has science and math worth reading.   The following is worth reading for the contrasting mindsets of interviewer and interviewee —

Virginia Trimble — now 76 and in declining health, was once young, beautiful, brilliant and a grad student at Cal Tech in astronomy.  Now a prof a UC Irvine she was interviewed by a young woman, about her experiences.

The interviewer did her best to make her appear exploited, but Trimble was having none of it.

Q. So you get to Caltech, and you’re the only woman —

A. I wasn’t. There was this tiny little cluster of seven of us that went through all at the same time …

She was so gorgeous (see her picture in the article) that Feynman asked her to be a model as (presumably) he was learning to draw, paying her $5.50 an hour.

The interviewer couldn’t contain herself

Q. When you spoke to him, did he treat you collegially?

Trimble, never one to pussyfoot around, responds.

A. The obvious question, did we make love? As it happens, no, but not a big deal. It might just as well have been yes, and we would still have been good friends.

The intrepid interviewer persists.

Q: I want to talk about sexual harassment in academia.

I don’t particularly care for the word harassment.

Let’s go with “hanky-panky,” OK?


When I was young and beautiful, I engaged in a great deal of hanky-panky. I could never see anything very wrong with it. You may claim that if a very distinguished senior scientist engages in hanky-panky with a much younger scientist — never mind which gender, and make it a conductor and a violinist if you wish, instead of senior and junior scientists — if that results in real injustice to people not involved in the hanky-panky, then, yeah, you have to have a rule against it. But I’m not so sure that that happens very often.

Clearly not the sort of thing the interviewer expected.  She persists and gamely frames a question so she can get the answer she wants

Q: I just want to clarify, when someone in power makes someone who is subordinate feel that they have to engage in sexual activities for the sake of their job or the sake of their academic career, that is what angers so many people right now.

Trimble is having none of it

A: The step in that syllogism where I part company is the younger — or whatever — person feeling they “have to,” and let me say again that a young attractive female has a lot of power, where older, less attractive men are concerned.

Defeated, the interviewer changes the subject.

Q: What are you most proud of in terms of your scientific work?

There’s a lot of interesting science in the article, but the clash of mindsets interested me more.

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