Culturally blinkered but refreshingly opinionated and not without a few pleasant surprises.

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EUREKA!

50 SCIENTISTS WHO SHAPED HUMAN HISTORY

A lively parade of cranks, mystics, rebels, obsessives, and geniuses, humble or otherwise, whose discoveries and insights shaped today’s science and technology.

Grant’s choices for inclusion are, unsurprisingly, nearly all male, dead, and white. Moving chronologically, he begins with “semi-legendary Mediterranean mystic” Pythagoras and ends with climate-change activist James Hansen. In between he trots out luminaries from Hypatia (murdered by a Christian patriarch’s “Rent-a-Mob”) to the “totally unscrupulous toad” Francis Bacon, from James Clerk Maxwell, the “Scottish Einstein,” to Einstein himself. Nine women make the cut, but only Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar represent the world beyond Europe and North America. Still, Howard Florey, who actually found ways to produce the antibiotic that Alexander Fleming only happened to notice, isn’t the only figure here who’s not one of the usual suspects. Moreover, conventional as his selections are, the author realizes them with vivacity, lucidly describing their significant achievements and also drawing connections—between the ideas of Leibnitz in the 17th century and of visionary mathematician Riemann in the 19th to Einstein’s in the 20th, for instance. Each entry includes an old or photographic portrait and an afterword with leads to more information, plus references to novels, films, lunar craters, rock bands, and other pop-culture links.

Culturally blinkered but refreshingly opinionated and not without a few pleasant surprises. (index) (Collective biography. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-942186-17-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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A concise companion and update to Vicki Oransky Wittenstein’s Planet Hunter (2010).

EXOPLANETS

WORLDS BEYOND OUR SOLAR SYSTEM

An enticing overview of tools, techniques, and discoveries in what the author rightly characterizes “a red-hot field in astronomy.”

Alas; it is perhaps too red-hot. Not only is Kenney’s count of accepted and potential exoplanets (as of May 2016) well out of date already, but her claim that “Wolf-1061” (sic: that’s actually the name of the star and its system) is the nearest Earthlike planet in the habitable “Goldilocks Zone” has been trumped by the recent discovery of a closer candidate orbiting Proxima Centauri. Still, along with describing in nontechnical terms each tool in the researcher’s kit—from space- and ground-based telescopes of various types to instruments that detect subtle stellar wobbles, spectrum changes, microlensing, and other telling signs—the author fills in the historical background of exoplanet research and profiles some of its weirder findings. She also casts side glances at extremophile life on Earth and other, at least tangentially related, topics. The small format gives the assortment of photos, artists’ renditions, diagrams, and generic star fields a cramped look, but readers curious about how researchers could possibly detect such dinky, distant objects as planets belonging to other star systems will come away satisfied and intrigued.

A concise companion and update to Vicki Oransky Wittenstein’s Planet Hunter (2010). (index, source notes, bibliography, websites) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5124-0086-1

Page Count: 92

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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An engaging, admiring, and insightful portrait of an uncompromising, civic-minded, visionary artist.

MAYA LIN

THINKING WITH HER HANDS

One of the world’s most celebrated creators of civic architecture is profiled in this accessible, engaging biography.

Similar in style and format to her Everybody Paints!: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family (2014) and Wideness and Wonder: The Life and Art of Georgia O’Keeffe (2011), Rubin’s well-researched profile examines the career, creative processes, and career milestones of Maya Lin. Rubin discusses at length Lin’s most famous achievement, designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Chinese-American Lin was a reserved college student who entered and won the competition to design and build the memorial. Her youth and ethnicity were subjects of great controversy, and Rubin discusses how Lin fought to ensure her vision of the memorial remained intact. Other notable works by Lin, including the Civil Rights Memorial for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, a library and chapel for the Children’s Defense Fund, the Museum of Chinese in America, and the outdoor Wave Field project are examined but not in as much depth as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Attractively designed, the book is illustrated extensively with color photos and drawings.

An engaging, admiring, and insightful portrait of an uncompromising, civic-minded, visionary artist. (bibliography, source notes, index) (Biography. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4521-0837-7

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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