Amy Bishop & oxidation

From The Boston Globe, Ambition fueled a smoldering rage:

A friendship of sorts was kindled, based largely on a mutual interest in science. Over coffee and lunch, they would discuss Bishop's research and McCann's work in biotechnology.

Bishop never spoke of her husband or growing family.

During one meeting, Bishop listened patiently to McCann for a time before suggesting they switch topics.

"She said, 'That's very nice, Isabel, but can we talk about oxidation?' '' she recalled, with a chuckle. "That one moment in time encapsulated who Amy was. She just couldn't connect with people.''

I would elaborate on the emphasized part above, but I'll leave it to readers as to why this sort of behavior is informative....

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The differences with Bishop are, on the one hand, that she was murderous and frequently threatening, and on the other, that she was a PhD and a woman.

There are a lot of other people, scientists and otherwise, who are single-minded, rude, and socially inept. Likewise, the story of the disagreeable, litigious neighbor is a very common one. Without murder or assault, there's no story at all there, not even in the local papers and scandal sheets. Just neighborhood gossip and workplace bitching.

As far as that goes, there are a lot of violent, threatening, murderous people around too, mentally ill and otherwise. It's just that they're very seldom research scientists. (Though I did mention four such up above.) Even the "fired employee kills three" story only lasts a day or two now without something to spice it up. Three isn't very many, by contemporary news standards.

The reason this story has legs is because Bishop is a woman and because she's a PhD. (And because she's a liberal. Liberal psycho killers are in high demand in certain circles).

The other four PhD-scientist psycho killers I named were all guys. At least three of them (Gang Lu, Theodore Streleski, and the Unabomber) went about their work very systematically and purposefully, in a well-planned way. Not so sure about Fabrikant.

By John Emerson (not verified) on 21 Feb 2010 #permalink

We as humans have built in instincts that tell us when someone isn't right in a sinister way. It's way more interesting and rare when a crime like this is committed by someone who seemed very normal.

Having just finished reading Frans de Waal's "The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society," I find the case of Amy Bishop all the more amazing. Near the end of the book (page 214) there is a discussion in which the comparative capacities for empathy of men and women are discussed. Not surprisingly, it is men who more often able to switch empathy off, but Amy Bishop demonstrates, as would be expected, it isn't a hard and fast rule.

By Bob Carlson (not verified) on 21 Feb 2010 #permalink

oooh, darkly hinting something is always fun

"She had spent much of her life in the shadows, so desperately shy that one acquaintance from her days as an undergraduate at Northeastern University described her as virtually invisible."

âShe didnât know how to make small talk,ââ she said. âItâs like she didnât have that gene.ââ

But of course the dead giveaway is that picture.

By Halvorson (not verified) on 21 Feb 2010 #permalink

I foresee words such as "Autism" and "Asperger's Syndrome" coming up in Amy Bishop's story.

Asperger's Syndrome is said to be a form of Autism - sufferers are socially inadequate & unable to relate to peers, but highly intelligent and work oriented. Trouble is that most great scientists are claimed as sufferers from Aspergers in some form or other (e.g. Einstein, Dirac). So, in Karl Popper's sense, an Aspergers diagnosis is unscientific becasue almost any smart but shy person can be said to be a sufferer. The diagnosis can explain everything, like Marxism can explain all of politics and economics, or Freudianism all mental illness. What distinguishes a sufferer from the Syndrome and someone who is just an intelligent loner is moot.

Or perhaps smoldering rage fueled her ambition?

John, Because she's a Ph.D. in a valorized cognitively demanding field, because she's a woman - AND because she's married and had 4 kids. Minus the hubby and kids everyone would be saying, "aha, it's because she's a bitter frustrated childless spinster." Most esp. including the HBD boy crowd.

Meanwhile, take a look at this NY Times compendium:…

Pay close attention to the part where Bishop's mother covers for her.

Like mother like daughter? A pathological liar, cold as ice, a relentless social climber obsessed with status?

I think so.