Two new books are released today that celebrate women and science, two subjects that are great on their own, but super fascinating when combined. I’ve been really looking forward to these books! They follow in line with a rapid surge of science writings that have been adding to my library. See if you could share my excitement below.
Lab Girl intrigues me from the get-go. I always love stories of people in academia, those pursuing their passion and interests at full throttle, especially in the sciences. Women in academia is another fascinating layer. From my time in graduate school, I’ve come to see that the relationship between an academic and her subject of study is like a love story–a deep one. Jahren is a geobiologist at the University of Hawaii who studies the world of plants and, it seems, is completely in love with it. Sounds like a very promising read.
Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.
Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.
Jahren’s probing look at plants, her astonishing tenacity of spirit, and her acute insights on nature enliven every page of this extraordinary book. Lab Girl opens your eyes to the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal. Here is an eloquent demonstration of what can happen when you find the stamina, passion, and sense of sacrifice needed to make a life out of what you truly love, as you discover along the way the person you were meant to be.
Rise of the Rocket Girls strikes me, given my recent visit to the Kennedy Space Center and all nerdy things I’ve been consuming. Space travel alone–what humans achieve through ingenuity, science, engineering, and perseverance–is impressive enough. But few of these stories are told in the female perspective, hence the thrill of seeing this book. It’s so refreshing to learn about these women who were just as geeked about going out to space as the men, who were brilliant, and just as dedicated to the ones on the spotlight. History lovers would enjoy this book too.
The riveting true story of the women who launched America into space.
In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn’t turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible.
For the first time, Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women–known as “human computers”–who broke the boundaries of both gender and science. Based on extensive research and interviews with all the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science: both where we’ve been, and the far reaches of space to which we’re heading.