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NYT Leads Obit For Brilliant Rocket Scientist With A Nod To Her Cooking And Parenting

I find it kind of hard to believe that the Times would start an obituary for a man this way. posted on

1. This is Yvonne Brill. She died Wednesday at the age of 88.

Walter P. Reuther Library / Via reuther.wayne.edu

Brill was literally a rocket scientist. In the 1970s, she created a design that prevented communications satellites from slipping out of orbit. President Obama gave her an award in 2011 for her pioneering work.

3. Here is how the New York Times described Brill in an obituary that was published online Saturday.

It reads:

She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said.

But Yvonne Brill, who died on Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., was also a brilliant rocket scientist, who in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.

4. She made a mean beef stroganoff!

Engineer instrumental in developing propulsion systems but hey she was a woman so look her beef stroganoff was her real achievement.

Mad at that NYT rocket scientist obit because A) i mean COME on & B) now I am hungry for beef stroganoff.

Dear NYT, just in case you're prewriting obits of obscure book critics, everybody says I make delicious chocolate chip cookies.

(For more tweets check this Storify.)

8. NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan acknowledged the focus of the obit was pretty bad.

To the many who've tweeted at me about the Yvonne Brill obituary, I sure agree. And here's some more perspective: cjr.org/the_observator…" target="_blank">http://t.co/ObdRPzqYOG">cjr.org/the_observator…

9. Then the Times changed the lede!

Now it says:

She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said.

Yvonne Brill, who died on Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.

10. The reference to beef stroganoff was stripped from the story.


And the editors decided to put “rocket scientist” ahead of “wife” and “mother.”

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