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Sex symbols on pedigrees were illustrated quite differently years ago. What brought about the change? Nowadays no scientific paper on genetics involving an extensive family history would be complete without depiction of the pedigree, on which squares represent the male members of the family and circles represent the females. But it was not always so, and a century ago ancient and modern symbols vied with each other in the genetic and eugenic literature. At the beginning of the 20th century the male and female symbols on pedigrees fig 1 were often variations of the ancient symbols classically associated with Mars and Venus. The history of their introduction into medicine was lengthy and circuitous, beginning with astronomy and astrology—and leading via alchemy, chemistry, and pharmacy to botany—before reaching human biology and genetics.
Representing two planets, iron, copper and a couple of Olympian gods, the classical symbols for male and female pack a lot of meaning into a few squiggly lines. The symbols themselves are ancient, and the associations they make date back to the dawn of civilization. The ancients, after observing how the movements of heavenly bodies like the Sun and planets heralded a corresponding change in events on our planet, eventually came to believe that there was a causal relationship. Logically, then, ancient scholars began to study the heavens in order to better predict, and prepare for, the future. Each heavenly body, along with its god, was also associated with a particular metal. So, for example, the Sun Helios was associated with gold note: in truth, the Sun is white in the human visual spectrum, not yellow ; Mars in Greek, Thouros was associated with the hard, red metal used to make weapons, iron; and Venus in Greek, Phosphorus with the softer metal that can turn green, copper.
Representing two planets, iron, copper and a couple of Olympian gods, the classical symbols for male and female pack a lot of meaning into a few squiggly lines. The symbols themselves are ancient, and the associations they make date back to the dawn of civilization. The ancients, after observing how the movements of heavenly bodies like the Sun and planets heralded a corresponding change in events on our planet, eventually came to believe that there was a causal relationship.
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Forgot Password? The male and female symbols are understood universally, but why? The symbols have actually denoted our sexes for a very long time, and the answer has to do with that old saying, "men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Is there something you're curious about? Send us a note or email us at editors at curiosity.
Covering the story, many media outlets have presented images of gender-neutral bathroom signs such as:. In a edition of the journal Taxon , William Stearn lays out a compelling origin story:. Ancient astrology believed the movements of celestial bodies influenced all life on earth, from changes in the seasons to the fate of an individual person. In their system, the Babylonians named particular celestial objects after their gods. They identified the planet Venus, for instance, with Ishtar, a fertility goddess, and Mars with Nergal, a war god. The Greeks copied the Babylonians — including alchemists and metallurgists, who associated deities with particular metals in religious rituals of their craft.
A gender symbol is a pictogram or glyph used to represent either biological sex or sociological gender a terminological distinction originating in s sociology in either biology, medicine, genealogy or selective breeding , or in sociology, gender politics , LGBT subculture and identity politics. Pictograms used to indicate male and female public toilets became widely used beginning in the s. The shape of the Mars symbol has been said to represent a shield and spear , and the shape of the Venus symbol a bronze mirror. They are still used in scientific publications to indicate the sex of an individual, for example of a patient. Gender pictograms are frequently used to mark public toilets. Standard American Institute of Graphic Arts symbols. Since the s, variations of gender symbols have also been used to express sexual orientation and political ideology.