On the TvTropes page "Everybody Hates Mathematics", in the section of examples from "Real Life", there appears the following excerpt:

Isaac Asimov once wrote in an editorial that the reason so many women are becoming lawyers — as opposed to doctors, engineers and so on — is that it is the only high-powered profession that requires no mathematics. He was promptly flooded with letters from irate lawyers claiming that they do, too, have to do math: they have to calculate billable hours, and figure taxes, and .... Asimov replied, in effect, "I rest my case". It is very common for people in all walks of life to equate mathematics with arithmetic.

The obvious searches didn't turn up anything, so I'm left wondering if this is made up, or maybe a wrong recollection by an editor of the page.

  • 7
    Wow. I just lost some of the significant respect I've long held for Asimov. I absolutely hate advanced math, yet was a molecular biologist and am a physician, when both were heavily male-dominated professions (hint, hint.) On expressing how disappointed I was on meeting James Watson, a very wise biochemist said, "Yes. Respect for a scientist is often inversely proportional to distance." Once again, it proves true. When their biases are revealed, they're as idiotic as the rest of us. Dec 10, 2023 at 18:25

1 Answer 1


Asimov indeed wrote this. It's from his editorial "Feminism," published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Mid-December 1988:

Some time ago, I met a young woman who introduced herself to me as a lawyer. I said, "Yes, everywhere you look you find women becoming lawyers. But do you know why?"
   Naturally, she said, "Why?"
   And I said, "Because it's the one profession that requires absolutely no mathematics."

He addressed the replies that he received in the editorial "Wrong!" in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, September 1989:

Some wrote to me to denounce me for thinking that women were becoming lawyers because that was one profession that involved no mathematics. Apparently, lawyers do have to know mathematics, some who wrote me explained with great indignation, because they had to make out bills and sometimes had to be able to handle compound interest.
   That's true enough, I suppose. Tellers in banks do that, too, and they're almost all women these days. And there, I admit, I made a mistake.
   When I talked about mathematics in connection with engineering and science, I suppose I took it for granted that everyone would know that what I meant was calculus and beyond. It didn't occur to me that anyone would think I meant grade-school arithmetic, only.

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    Out of context, that sounds misogynistic. Did the context change anything for the better? ("better" being non-misogynistic!) Dec 10, 2023 at 12:37
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    @EndAnti-SemiticHate: I would say so, and indeed Asimov also felt he needed to clarify his position based on feedback he received for his original "Feminism" editorial: "There my error might have been that of not making it plain what was bugging me. The thing that bothered me was that women were not sufficiently feminist; that they played along with male sexism; that many avoided mathematics because they had somehow allowed themselves to be convinced that their brains weren’t strong enough or bright enough for it; …" Dec 10, 2023 at 19:27
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    … however, Asimov then immediately continues the list with: "…; that they made use of “makeup” to exaggerate those facets of their appearance designed to advertise their sexuality so as to encourage male advances which they might then claim to be “harassment.”" So, yeah… one step forward, one step back. :/ Dec 10, 2023 at 19:31
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    I seem to remember a collection of essays where he made a statement that sounded vaguely homophobic. I am not saying he was homophobic but he was very much a product of his era and not necessarily a forward-thinking liberal as sometimes portrayed.
    – Tom
    Dec 11, 2023 at 9:00
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    I'm not aware of anyone claiming Azimov was a "forward-thinking liberal", at least in areas of feminism and the like. He was certainly a product of his time and, in fact, had a well-known reputation as a serial groper.
    – BradC
    Dec 11, 2023 at 16:10

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