The Laboratory Bookshelf Expands!
It has been a while since our last installment of The Laboratory Bookshelf, and with many new releases (and a classic) that may be of interest to chemists, scientists, and readers in general, it was a good time to visit the shelves. Here is another interesting collection.
o Blitzed – This is a fascinating, in-depth look at the industrialization of pharmaceutical manufacture, use – and abuse – by the military and government of Nazi Germany prior and most especially during the war. It is also a very provocative take on the use and influence of the drugs used, most pointedly, by Dr. Theodor Morell and his “Patient A”, Adolf Hitler. While never excusing the horrors inflicted by Nazi Germany, it is nonetheless a completely new look at one of the most examined periods of the 20th century - from a pharmacological perspective.
o The Radium Girls – While many people are familiar with the broad outlines of the story contained in this book, the tale told here is even more engrossing. The “shining girls” of the United States Radium Corporation suffered what the author calls, “part scientific mystery, part horror story and part courtroom drama, … a piece of history that will break your heart but somehow lift your spirit.” These are the women who, when they walked home at night, glowed. When they blew their noses, their handkerchiefs glowed. And when they died and were exhumed years later, their corpses did too! This is an important story connecting workers’ rights and atomic history.
o The Periodic Table – This famous book, by the Italian chemist and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, is a collection of short stories, with the title of each of its twenty-one autobiographical episodes named and relative to an element found on the titular table. The tales follow him from infancy through his imprisonment in concentration camps and finally his work as an industrial chemist. It was named by the Royal Institution of Great Britain the “best science book ever.”
Another look: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/book-of-a-lifetime-the-periodic-table-by-primo-levi-1815315.html
o Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Arguably the most famous author on this list, Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a multi-hyphenate scientific communicator in his roles as astronomer, television host, best-selling author, actor, podcaster, and even as a comic book character (!), among others. Here he deals with basic but complex questions about the nature of the universe, in an easily understood way. It’s a perfect primer for someone wanting a conversational level understanding of the cosmological forces at work around us.
Another look: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/neil-degrasse-tyson/astrophysics-for-people-in-a-hurry/
o The Smile Stealers: The Fine + Foul Art of Dentistry – Richard Barnett is a medical historian who has just completed a trilogy of books on the history of disease, surgery and dentistry. A warning: with illustrations, this is not for the squeamish or those with pending appointments with the dentist. It is for those that are have an interest in medical history, or even design, as it is beautifully presented.
Another look: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/may/26/history-of-dentistry-smile-stealers-richard-barnett-in-pictures
o Lab Girl – Hope Jahren writes in this memoir with alternating chapters about botany and her personal and professional coming of age, it does, as one reviewer noted, “what Oliver Sacks’s essays did for neurology, what Stephen Jay Gould’s writings did for paleontology.” This would be especially of interest to those just starting out on their scientific career or anyone seeking some affirmation along the way from both the wonder of nature and the importance of their vocation.
Another look: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/29/books/review-lab-girl-hope-jahrens-road-map-to-the-secret-life-of-plants.html
o The Invention of Nature – by Andrea Wulf, is the best-selling book about German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), his travels, ideas, and most significantly, his broad and deep influence on subsequent generations of scientists, activists and even the public at large. This is a book with a large scope, albeit because of one man’s concepts and how they reverberated through history, even to this day.
Another look: https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2015/10/03/book-review-the-invention-nature-alexander-von-humboldt-new-world-andrea-wulf/13dl6jtIkrrkkahAWtjvkI/story.html
The preceding additions join these previously featured volumes:
o The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and The Gene: An Intimate History - Siddhartha Mukherjee
o Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness and Family Secrets - Luke Dittrich
o I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life - Ed Yong
o The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Smoot
That’s all for now – Happy holidays and happy reading!