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A fresh contribution to women’s history.

The history of women as vital contributors to advancements in early space exploration.

In this engaging history and group biography, science journalist Holt (Cured: How the Berlin Patients Defeated HIV and Forever Changed Medical Science, 2014) reveals the significance of the young women mathematicians who staffed the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Beginning in the 1940s, women who had been the only females in college mathematics and chemistry classes found themselves part of an eager team of scientists and engineers whose first project was to produce “a new weapon, a long-range jet-propelled missile that could carry a thousand-pound warhead for a hundred miles at a speed capable of eluding an enemy fighter aircraft.” Drawing on interviews with surviving team members, Holt traces the frustrations, failures, and successes of rocket development before computers came on the scene. Working with pencils, graph paper, and notebooks, it took one woman a day to calculate a single rocket’s trajectory, plotting the path in a hand-drawn picture. Sometimes they used a Friden calculator, a heavy, unwieldy mechanism that vibrated noisily. When the IBM 704 computer—weighing more than 30,000 pounds and costing $2 million—arrived in the late 1950s, the JPL staff was suspicious. “The engineers and computers preferred to do their calculations by hand,” writes the author, “not trusting the massive machines that had too many glitches to be trustworthy.” After Russia sent Sputnik into space, the JPL pressed for funds to develop a satellite, frustrated that Eisenhower’s administration “worried that the space race might turn into the space war.” They were jubilant when they were finally able to work on unmanned missions. Besides chronicling the development of America’s space program, Holt recounts the women’s private lives—marriages, babies, and the challenge of combining motherhood and work—gleaned from her interviewees’ vivid memories.

A fresh contribution to women’s history.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-33892-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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