Google Doodle celebrates botanist Carrie Derick

This didn’t appear on my Google screen, but reader Dennis tells me that yesterday Google in Canada posted a Doodle honoring the 155th birthday of Carrie Matilda Derick (1862-1941).


Derick, a geneticist specializing in plants, was in fact the first female professor in any subject in a Canadian university. She was also the founder of the botany department at McGill University, but wasn’t made a professor for three years after she’d been running the department! (See below.) The Library and Archives Canada recounts some of her achievements, which were not only in botany, but in popularization of science and political activism:

As well as teaching and doing research, Derick published numerous articles on botany, including “The problem of the ‘burn-out’ district of southern Saskatchewan,” “The early development of the Florideae,” and “The trees of McGill University.” Many articles were aimed at the scientific community, earning her the respect of colleagues around the world and the distinction of appearing in the 1910 edition of American men of science. Others were intended to bring an understanding of nature to a general audience. In addition, she wrote biographical sketches and political essays.

At the same time that she was leading a busy and sometimes difficult academic life, Derick was deeply involved in social activism. Her main interests were women’s suffrage and education, but she worked for many causes throughout her life. Her energy and commitment are reflected in a partial list of the organizations she was involved with: the Local Council of Women (Montreal); the Protestant Committee of the Council of Education; the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the Montreal Suffrage Association; the National Council of Education; the Federation of University Women of Canada; and the Montreal Folklore Society.


Carrie Derick

Sadly, this Doodle is seen only in the blue places below, i.e., Canada. It’s the first one-country Doodle I’ve seen, and that’s a shame. It does us well to remember the indignities suffered not all that long ago by women in academia, and to mourn the loss of scientific advances caused by the marginalization of women. Wikipedia gives the evidence (my emphasis)

In 1891, Derick began her master’s program at McGill under David Penhallow and received her M.A. in botany in 1896. She attended the University of Bonn in 1901 and completed the research required for a Ph.D. but was not awarded an official doctorate since the University did not give women Ph.D. degrees. She then returned to McGill and “continued to work, teach, and administer” in the botany department. In 1905, “after seven years of lecturing, assisting Penhallow with his classes, researching and publishing, without any pay increments or offers of promotion, Derick wrote directly to Principal Peterson and was promoted to assistant professor” at one-third the salary of her male counterparts. Derick was only officially appointed as professor of comparative morphology and genetics by McGill in 1912 after three years of running the department following Penhallow’s death. She was the first woman both at McGill and in Canada to achieve university professorship. She retired in 1929.



  1. Posted January 15, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this Jerry. I didn’t know anything about Derick until I saw the Doodle. Very interesting, and more so because of work outside academia. It seems that reality seen through the lenses of higher education indeed has a liberal bias.

  2. Garry VanGelderen
    Posted January 15, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Great posting. We need more of these honouring female scientists, social advocates, etc.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 15, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Noticed she had to send letters to finally get appointed and then at 1/3rd the salary of a man. In the states during slavery they were worth 2/3rds of a vote. How about that equality but then that applied only to men, white men.

  4. Christopher
    Posted January 15, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I find it a bit irritating that google limits their doodles to certain countries. If someone is interesting in Canada, they are probably interesting in general and it wouldn’t hurt for those living in other countries to learn a thing or two about another country. I mean, most people know that Canada is: cold, has polar bears, clubs baby seals to death for fun and profit, plays hockey, is obsessed with something called Tim Horton’s, and puts gravy on their fries.

    • Billy Bl.
      Posted January 15, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Mmmm. French fries and gravy. Haven’t had any in years, but only through a strong will.

      • Christopher
        Posted January 15, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        I’m sure your arteries thank you for it.

    • nwalsh
      Posted January 15, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Hmmm, Christopher only partly correct: Most of us will never see a polar bear, have never been inside a Tim Horton’s,Lots of hockey players around, the baby seal situation is deplorable.Cold? I live in a part of Canada that is quite hot in the summer and generally has milder winters than the US north east and midwest.Cheers.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 15, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Shhhh, don’t tell them we don’t live on the Tundra in igloos.

        • Christopher
          Posted January 15, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

          How do you keep your Tim Hortons coffee from freezing before you drink it in your igloo, anyway? and do you put wheels on your dog sled so you can get around during your two weeks of summer?

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted January 15, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

            Igloos are only for rich people. Most of us live in “huts”. Tim Horton’s is also only for the rich and we aren’t sure how they manage to keep their coffee warm. We don’t have wheels in Canada which is a bummer because we have to walk really far in the summer when our sleds aren’t able to be used and stand in long lines for health care. 😀

      • Christopher
        Posted January 15, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        I should have written “know”, to imply the generalizations and stereotyping of what people know, or think the know, about Canada. and I forgot beavers, mounties, and maple syrup…


        • nwalsh
          Posted January 15, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

          Gravy on fries?Yuck. That must be an eastern thing 🙂

    • Lars
      Posted January 15, 2017 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      The genome of the beaver was just mapped in Canada. Top that, Venter.

  5. Billy Bl.
    Posted January 15, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    We all like to criticise the repression of women by other cultures, but we haven’t yet fully emerged from that backwater ourselves.

    • Posted January 15, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Shades of grey are important. I once read an essay on the presentation of vulva in Western culture. The author was stressing roughly 3 times per page how misogynist the Western culture was. She was from a non-Western culture practicing female infanticide. The text was worth reading but at the end my overall reaction was, “Oh seriously?”.

  6. Michael Fisher
    Posted January 15, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Google at least dropped their motto “Don’t Be Evil” which indicates some self-awareness I suppose…

    Here’s the Doodles Archive:

    Today’s [15th Jan] offering is “Teacher’s Day 2017 (Venezuela)” & it’s reach is purely Venezuela & as Christopher notes [comment 4] this is a missed opportunity for a learning moment for other nations & cultures. I speculate the reason for these doodles not being global is Google doesn’t want to rock boats so it’s least controversial to spread a particular Google Doodle only in locales where the theme is non-controversial & may have high recognition. I reach this conclusion because of Google’s willingness to censor searches in regions where the ruling regime demands it [I’m thinking of China a while back]

    As an experiment I looked up the series of Doodles for the Christmas three days & there’s two for each day [southern end of South America & Australasia get a warm climate version] & of course it’s referred to as “Holidays 2016”, the theme is carols & the whole of the Middle East, North Africa, China & Russia is excluded from the ‘reach’ map

    There’s one for “Summer Solstice 2016 (Southern Hemisphere)” & its reach is – Brazil & that’s all…


    • Christopher
      Posted January 15, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      I think the “reason” for doing so is probably similar to what you said. I appreciate that some people can be considered a hero in one nation, a villain in another, and perhaps for the sake of “good business practices”, it would be wise for google to know that before hand. I would prefer to have a rotating doodle option, since they design several, so that each time I were to visit on the same day, I’d get a different doodle. But, whatever. In the grade scheme of things, it’s not really high on my list of priorities.

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 15, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    One thing I always notice is whenever you go to a place in a university honouring academics of the past during the university’s early years, there is a paucity of females – just a bunch of white guys. Sad and glad we’ve come further but it took us way too long.

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