Gender not the issue

March 5, 2004

It is June Purvis (Letters, February ) who misses the point.

There may be incipient sexism associated with some Royal Society members' response to the candidature of women ("RS seeks to calm row over baroness", February ). But sexism is hard to keep at bay if a candidate is happy to be described as, say, "Britain's leading woman mycologist" and pontificate on the dangers of eating magic mushrooms. Male candidates are unlikely to be described as Britain's leading man paleobotanist. When an individual is considered for election on the grounds of para-scientific activity, the success of which depends largely on the public's perception of their authority, it is useful to discover if that authority is deserved. If it turns out that the basis for the perceived authority is mediocre, gender is irrelevant.

Michael J. Rennie
Nottingham School of Biomedical Sciences

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