Portraits of 16 bright lights in the scientific firmament, with particular focus on some of their lesser-known quirks and achievements.
Nearly half of Stabler’s selected stars are men. Grouping entries by general field, he blasts off with NASA numbers whiz Katherine Johnson and pulls up to a close with Stephen Hawking. In between he highlights Isaac Newton’s rodent-powered windmill, Benjamin Franklin’s swim fins and his views on swimming, Marie Curie’s youthful talent for practical jokes, “Bad Albert” Einstein’s very first words (“The soup is too hot!”), Ada Lovelace’s design for a steam-powered flying horse, Temple Grandin’s Hug Box, and so on, in an apparent effort to make luminaries often portrayed as larger than life a bit closer to human. If his claim that they were all “just ordinary kids who were curious about the world around them” doesn’t always hold water (Johnson, for instance, started high school at 10, and Rachel Carson was earning money as a professional writer at 15), young readers will at least get reassuring glimpses of slow starters such as Einstein and Hawking (who didn’t learn to read until he was 8) as well as stars who rose past barriers of race (Johnson, George Washington Carver), gender (Vera Rubin), and disability (Grandin, Hawking) to shine. Lighthearted portraits from Syed on every page feature stylized but recognizable versions of each subject with jokey comments or punchlines.
Worthy role models all. (source list, index) (Collective biography. 10-13)