Nature and Science
"People are like plants: they grow toward the light. I chose science because science gave me what I needed -- a home as defined in the most literal sense: a safe place to be."
~ from Hope Jahren's Lab Girl
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
by Frans de Waal
Do animals plan for the future? Reflect on the past? Regret their decisions? Say goodbye to friends and loved ones? Primatologist Frans de Waal has dedicated his life and career to understanding the inner lives of animals. In this book, he presents an accessible overview of the field of evolutionary cognition, complete with anecdotes and essential concepts (such as Umwelt, German for "surrounding world" and referring to an animal's subjective experience). He also traces the progression of human (mis)understanding of animal intelligence, which, he concludes, is neither superior nor inferior to human intelligence, but rather profoundly different.
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon...
by Nathalia Holt
Barby Canright, Macie Roberts, Helen Yee Chow, Barbara Lewis, Janez Lawson, Susan Finley...these are just some of the names science enthusiasts ought to know (but probably don't). Beginning in the 1940s, an era when the word "computer" referred to a skilled mathematician, this talented group of women calculated rocket trajectories, designed satellites, and analyzed massive amounts of experimental data. Despite their relative obscurity, their contributions played a crucial role in launching the United States' space program. Drawing from interviews with many of the "Rocket Girls" and their families, this collective biography of the women of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory finally offers readers a glimpse into the professional and personal lives of these extraordinary scientists.
by Hope Jahren
In this moving, lyrical account that "transcends both memoir and science writing" (Kirkus Reviews), paleobiologist Hope Jahren vividly portrays her life as a scientist, beginning with her childhood in rural Minnesota, where she became fascinated by the natural world, and continuing through her student days and subsequent field work. In addition to offering glimpses into the daily life of a research scientist, Lab Girl also documents some personal challenges, such as living with bipolar disorder, while celebrating professional milestones, such as building three laboratories from scratch and a decades-long collaboration with her lab partner, Bill, who's, um, quite a character.
The Gene: An Intimate History
by Siddhartha Mukherjee
As the atom is to physics, so is the gene the fundamental unit of genetics. Describing the concept of heredity as a form of information transmission, physician and science writer Siddhartha Mukherjee considers the gene, its long and winding road to discovery, and its future in a world where bioengineering is becoming commonplace. From Mendel and Darwin to the Human Genome Project, this sweeping, thought-provoking book by the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Emperor of Maladies artfully explores both the scientific and cultural significance of genes.
You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice
by Tom Vanderbilt
"We are faced with an ever-increasing amount of things to figure out whether we like or dislike," says author Tom Vanderbilt. But why do we prefer some things over others? What's the point of having a favorite color, number, or animal? Vanderbilt, who analyzed our driving habits in the bestselling Traffic, now turns his attention to the science of personal preference. If you like accessible and engaging blends of sociology and economics, such as Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice, you'll probably enjoy this book. But then again, there's no accounting for taste. (Or is there?)
Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family
by Shelley Emling
The first person to win two Nobel Prizes (and in two different fields, physics and chemistry), Marie Skłodowska Curie also founded a dynasty of female scientists -- beginning with her older daughter, chemist Irene. Drawing on archival material as well as interviews with members of the Curie-Joliot family, this book examines the influence of Curie's private life on her research. With a special emphasis on the Curie family in the post-World War I era, this biography presents a well-rounded portrait of an iconic and inspiring scientist.
Ada's Algorithm: How Lord Byron's Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched...
by James Essinger
During her brief yet influential life (she died in 1852, aged 36), mathematician Ada Byron, Countess Lovelace, wrote what is widely considered to be the first program for Charles Babbage's proposed Analytical Engine, a forerunner of today's computers. The daughter (and only legitimate child) of English poet Lord Byron, Ada struggled in vain to achieve recognition for her accomplishments during her lifetime. Alas, Ada's disappointment was the world's loss: had her contemporaries recognized the significance of her work, the digital age might have commenced decades sooner according to this intriguing biography by the author of Jacquard's Web: How a Hand Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age.
Sex Versus Survival: The Life and Ideas of Sabina Spielrein
by John Launer
Although Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are household names, their colleague Sabina Spielrein is not. Yet this Russian Jewish physician and psychoanalyst shaped the landscape of 20th-century psychology. At age 18, her family committed her to an asylum, where her treatment inspired her to study medicine. Although her career is often overshadowed by her brief affair with Jung (dramatized in the 2011 film A Dangerous Method), Spielrein was the first psychiatric patient to become a mental health practitioner, and her groundbreaking work in the area of early childhood development would influence Jean Piaget, among others.
Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America's First...
by George D. Morgan
It wasn't until Mary Sherman Morgan's death in 2004 that her son, author George Morgan, learned of his mother's contributions to rocket science. A chemist by training, Sherman Morgan was the only female analyst at North American Aviation, where she invented the propellant hydyne, used to launch the satellite Explorer 1 into orbit. Indeed, Sherman Morgan was such a private person that Wernher von Braun, in his correspondence, addressed her as "Unknown Lady." Thanks to this book, which blends traditional biography and memoir, Mary Sherman Morgan -- unlike so many pioneering female scientists -- will no longer be unknown or anonymous.
Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space
by Lynn Sherr
Physicist Sally Ride joined NASA in 1978 when the organization at last relaxed their ban on women and minorities. Beating out some 8,000 other applicants to become an astronaut candidate, Ride ultimately gained international fame as the first American woman to travel to space. It was a milestone that attracted a predictably intense level of media scrutiny, especially for a person who worked hard to keep her personal life separate from her professional identity. Indeed, it wasn't until her death in 2012 that the world learned -- via her obituary -- that Ride was survived by her female partner of some 30 years. In addition to recounting the extraordinary life of an individual who broke barriers, this biography also describes the challenges faced by Ride and others on account of their gender and sexual orientation.
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