A scientist’s debut autobiography relates his adventures in nanotechnology, creative invention, and entrepreneurialism.
Yaniv was born in Botosani, a Jewish community in Romania in 1946, in the still parlous aftermath of World War II. Instead of a Jewish Hebrew School, he went to The Laurian, which provided a more secular training in the sciences. At age 10, he read Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island and was infatuated by the scientific ingenuity of the characters, and inspired by them. At 14, he moved with his family to France, and received both a general and technical education at the Lycée Voltaire while studying violin at the Conservatoire de Paris. The author moved yet again with his family, this time to Israel, served in the Israeli Defense Forces during the Six-Day War, and completed a master’s degree in math and physics at Hebrew University. He then pursued a Ph.D. in the United States at Kent State University, concentrating on liquid crystals, which would be one of the main focuses of the remainder of his illustrious scientific career: Yaniv has been awarded more than 300 patents. The book is an eclectic memoir that, by turns, recounts his life as a scientist, as a husband and a father, and as an innovative entrepreneur. The author also discusses at length the process that runs from a fledgling idea to a patent and then a manufactured product, as well as his system for figuring out whether a startup company is worth pursuing in the first place. Yaniv lucidly delineates the nature of nanotechnology as well, and brilliantly details its peculiarly central relationship to creativity: “Nanotechnology manifests leaps of imagination into a world that is different from the apparent one. This nanoworld melds art and science, creating new materials and a new reality.” Some of the more technical depictions of this or that specific system might prove elusive for many lay readers, but the more general discussions of modern technology and its social significance are invitingly accessible.
An unusually seamless account of a scientist’s mind and the technology that preoccupied it.