Meet The Woman Behind the First Black Hole Image

This is the MIT computer scientist whose algorithm led to the first real image of a black hole. Katie Bouman, 29, has devoted years to the galactic quest and on Wednesday — when the first image of a black hole and its fiery halo was released — social media users pushed for her to get her due.

main article image

“Congratulations to Katie Bouman to whom we owe the first photograph of a black hole ever. Not seeing her name circulate nearly enough in the press,” wrote Twitter user Tamy Emma Pepin. “Amazing work. And here’s to more women in science (getting their credit and being remembered in history).”

By Wednesday evening, Bouman’s name was trending nationally on Twitter. New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that Bouman should take her “rightful seat in history.”

“Congratulations and thank you for your enormous contribution to the advancements of science and mankind,” she tweeted. “Here’s to #WomenInSTEM!,” which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Both MIT and the Smithsonian also tweeted to laud Bouman’s achievements.

“3 years ago MIT grad student Katie Bouman led the creation of a new algorithm to produce the first-ever image of a black hole,” MIT’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab tweeted. “Today, that image was released.”

Bouman, who posted a photo on Facebook of her reaction to seeing her work come to fruition, responded modestly.

“No one of us could’ve done it alone,” she told CNN. “It came together because of lots of different people from many different backgrounds.”

While she was a graduate student at MIT, Bouman led the development of the algorithm that helped capture the first-of-a-kind image, working with a team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the MIT Haystack Observatory. She also led testing over the last few years to verify the image.

She’s now an assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences at the California Institute of Technology.