Dignifying Science

Dignifying Science

In this collection of “Stories About Women Scientists” (as the subtitle runs), the lives of female scientists are illustrated by talented female artists. Most of the subjects will unfortunately be unknown to the casual reader, which makes the stories even more enjoyable and enlightening.

Dignifying Science includes stories illustrated by Donna Barr, Stephanie Gladden, Roberta Gregory, Lea Hernandez, Carla Speed McNeil, Linda Medley, Marie Severin, Jen Sorensen, and Anne Timmons, with a cover by Ramona Fradon and Mary Fleener. All chapters are written by Jim Ottaviani.

The book starts off with two pages on the best-known female scientist, Marie Curie, illustrated by Marie Severin. Her words, in a letter to her brother, state, “We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves,” as the art shows her near freezing to death, illustrating her sacrifice for her work. Her dedication, combined with the immense struggles she faced, sets the tone for the stories to follow.

Dignifying Science

Next is the most famous of the book’s experimenters, although not in the expected way. Carla Speed McNeil’s beautifully clear artwork tells the story of Hedy Lamarr, the famous movie actress, who had a patent on control systems for torpedos that used frequency switching. Without her invention, we wouldn’t have that essential modern device, the cell phone. Plus, her story contains a dramatic escape from the control of her husband, a munitions manufacturer.

Barbara McClintock (art by Lea Hernandez) won a Nobel Prize for her work with corn genetics, and Biruté Galdikas (art by Anne Timmons) studied orangutans in Borneo. Jen Sorensen’s usual thick-line style illustrates the story of Lise Meitner, showing some of her experiments that were key in understanding atomic fission and energy. Rosalind Franklin’s story is drawn by Stephanie Gladden with inserts by Donna Barr, Roberta Gregory, and Linda Medley. The style changes indicate changes in perspective, with Franklin’s rather prickly personality discussed by her colleagues. This inability to get along easily with others likely accounts for her work in determining the structure of DNA being overlooked.

The GT Labs website has more information, including preview pages.


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