Mysterious woman appears in old conference photo—but who she turns out to be—It’s a game changer

March 26, 2018 5:21 pm Last Updated: March 26, 2018 5:21 pm

Imagine that you’re a scientist who has just finished an important conference and made major discoveries. You’re photographed alongside a group of other people in the same field and the image is published in newspapers and magazines.

Everyone in the photo has their names listed except you.

Now visualize it’s over 40 years later and you’ve accomplished even more incredible things, yet your discoveries have gone largely unnoticed. Additionally that old photo has appeared in many more publications, yet you’re still the only one uncredited.

How does that make you feel? Mad, right? Well, that exact scenario played out recently online and it was up to Twitter to uncover her identity.

Wow, was that a wild ride!

Candace Jean Andersen tweeted a photo from a 1970s science conference hoping to identify the only female scientist.

On March 9, Twitter user Andersen began her mission to uncover a 47-year-old mystery. Back in 1971, scientists from 10 countries held an International Conference on Biology of Whales in Virginia and took a photo together.

Every single scientist was identified except for one black woman standing among the group of white and Asian men.

“Can you help me know her?” Andersen asked Twitter, and the response was astounding!

Soon, people from all over the world were on the case with her. They speculated based on what other black women were working in the field at the time and women mentioned alongside the identified male scientists in other articles.

Meanwhile, Andersen tried getting in touch with people who could give her more definitive answers, like Suzanne M. Contos (originally thought to be who was pictured) who helped organize the event, and Robert Brownwell who was also in attendance.

The woman identified was Sheila Minor, a biologist who had made many major breakthroughs in her day.

After a few days spent searching for answers, Andersen finally learned the woman’s true identity, Sheila Minor (also listed as Sheila Jones, her married name). In the 70s, Minor was a Biological Research Technician for Smithsonian Institution, a member of the Smithsonian Women’s Council, and a member of American Society of Mammalogists.

Truly an impressive resumé.

She taught in schools, gave lectures, and proposed astonishing theories. What’s more, this info didn’t come from some random source but rather straight from the woman herself.

She’s still alive and still “a wicked smart babe,” as Andersen puts it.

After getting in contact with Andersen, Minor gave her a special offer.

At the end of Andersen’s investigation, she had an hour-long call with Minor. The scientist told a myriad of stories from her past and both of them discussed the difficulties of a male-dominated workplace.

Andersen said her heart was bursting after the call.

Yet perhaps the most exciting part of the conversation came when Minor gave her a special offer. Andersen, an illustrator, is working on a children’s book about marine life.

While that isn’t Minor’s specialized field, she asked her if there was anything she could do to help Andersen finish the book.

It’s a shame that Minor’s achievements went unknown for so long but amazing that the power of social media was able to bring them to light. Minor seems to not only be a brilliant mind but a great person as well.

Here’s hoping she continues to get the attention she so deserves.