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Tue, Nov 25
What Wikipedia taught me about my grandfather
To me Frederic M. Richards was Grandpa Freddy, a jolly man who always wore a silly brown jacket with elbow patches, who delighted in showing me how to spin the lazy Susan at the breakfast table, who insisted I help him move a one-ton rock up his path, who challenged me to fruit-eating contests. To his parents and siblings he was the weird youngest son. To a generation of biophysicists he was, apparently, a defining thinker.
One of the wonderful parts of Wikipedia is that not only can you see the revision history, you can also see who made the changes. It turns out that in the case of the article on my grandfather, almost the entire piece was written by “dcrjsr,” or Jane S. Richardson, a 73-year-old biophysicist at Duke University and past president of the Biophysical Society. Richardson is also the main driver behind WikiProject Biophysics—one that currently lists 13 categories and almost 800 articles, including Membrane Potential, Physics of Skiing, and CACNA2D1. Of those 800 articles, three are certified as Featured Articles and six as Good Articles. Only one of those Good Articles is a biography. That biography is of my grandfather.
So I called Richardson to find out how that happened.