Thursday, August 21, 2008
Atoms, dinosaurs & DNA
Atoms, dinosaurs & DNA: 68 Great New Zealand Scientists, compiled by Veronika Meduna & Rebecca Priestley. Auckland: Random House New Zealand, 2008. ISBN 978-1-86941-954-7
A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of sighting an advance copy of this book at the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies, as Rebecca was carrying it under her arm. Now I have the even greater privilege of owning a copy.
The work was first devised as an accompaniment to an exhibition, Butterflies, Boffins, & Black Smokers: two centuries of science in New Zealand, which was staged at the National Library in September 2006. This original framework has been greatly augmented, with 30 more biographical profiles. There is also a timely emphasis on nuclear and earth sciences, Antarctic science, genetics and medicine, impelled by the personal enthusiasms of the two women who co-curated the exhibit, and who worked together to compile the book.
Ranging from the first European explorers to today's top young scientists, Atoms, dinosaurs & DNA conveys solid basic information as well as intriguing details of academic quibbles and personal foibles -- a favorite of mine is the fellow who wore pink woolen longjohns on field trips. Predictably, there are many more men than women, but it is laudable that all the women are interesting and worthy, and not just added to the collection in an attempt at gender balance.
Beautifully illustrated and handsomely produced, the book is a credit to the compilers, the editors, the designers, the publishers, and the contributors. Rebecca tells me that it is aimed at a young adult audience. It certainly should find a place in all school libraries, but it deserves a prominent place on home bookshelves, too.