Opinion Web Exclusive

Wikipedia editor dies, leaving behind appreciative students


Francis Emelogu//The Daily Cougar

The modern student is dependent on the Internet for research. The Internet has allowed the world to share and access knowledge instantly. It is a tool unlike any other that allows students to entertain, learn, and share information.

While nearly all of us use the Internet to fact check, learn about topics and read the news, some of us contribute more than others to the knowledge pool.

Adrianne Wadewitz was one such woman.

Wikipedia, one of the most popular websites on the Internet, is where many students go to learn about a vast array of topics.

Wadewitz was among the Wikipedia editors who made our lives easier in the pursuit of knowledge. She was responsible for the creation and editing of around 50,000 posts throughout her lifetime.

Those in women’s studies at UH may know her work especially well, as her additions of feminist content to Wikipedia were well recognized. A history scholar, she was particularly well-known for her writings on topics related to historical feminism.

Wadewitz, 37, died on April 8 from a rock-climbing accident in Palm Springs, Calif. She suffered head injuries after a fall.

According to Sue Gardner, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, the loss is huge for Wikipedia.

“She may have been our single biggest contributor on these topics — female authors, women’s history,” Gardner said.

It is easy to scour the Internet for information and articles for a school assignment or for reading pleasure. It’s even easier to forget that all of the information available to us comes from somewhere — often from influential writers such as Wadewitz.

Even while teachers chastise the use of Wikipedia as a source that “anyone” can edit, it is important to realize how much impact such influential contributors to the site can have on our collective learning.

The bulk of editing on Wikipedia is by unpaid enthusiasts such as Wadewitz, who form a community that demands citations, meticulousness and perfection.

It is thanks to the hard, much-too-thankless work of such enthusiasts and scholars that free information is available instantly and to all, instead of only in the library. It is thanks to such hard work that we have access to quickly-updated encyclopedia articles that belong to a nonprofit company.

As many teachers urge students, perhaps we should all become a little more aware of who is writing the sources of our research as we move into finals.

Millions read the most popular articles on Wikipedia, although few know who wrote them. In a country where education is so expensive, much thanks goes to those who contribute regularly to Wikipedia and other free information sources that aid those struggling to earn their degrees.

As an engineer, my focus of studies may not have crossed Wadewitz’s writings as often as some others at UH, but I do have gratitude for anyone who graciously offers their knowledge freely for all students around the world. In a country where classes cost thousands of dollars, people like Wadewitz are saints for those who cannot afford formal education on the subjects.

Whether someone is studying feminism, engineering, communication, mathematics, computer science or history — or simply enjoys reading informative articles — they have probably unknowingly found themselves impacted by Wikipedia contributors such as Wadewitz.

Wadewitz was an educator who did not live to make money from her knowledge. Instead, she chose to spread her knowledge as freely as possible for the good of readers everywhere.

Let her life be an example to help those who don’t necessarily ask for it. No matter what your particular skills may be, use them to help others, just as Wadewitz did.

Opinion columnist Shane Brandt is a petroleum engineering junior and may be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

  • If your idea of pursuing knowledge is to glorify Wikipedia, you clearly have no idea how to do research. You might try something called a library. And guess what? It’s even online, with lots of peer-review journals too. You know, stuff written by actual scholars. Try it sometime. So much better looking in your citations that Wikidumbia. Best of all, your profs will actually think you know how to think. Amazing.

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