Zernike, a journalist, tells a story familiar to women with professional ambitions in the mid-20th century. Nancy Hopkins, a molecular biologist who attended Radcliffe, winds up working in the lab of Nobel prize-winner James Watson. Naïve at first about the discrimination she is subjected to—Watson’s Nobel co-winner, Francis Crick, once groped her breasts—Hopkins’s eyes slowly open as events of the 1960s awaken women to their rights. Hopkins's experiences as a researcher and scholar at Harvard and MIT make you want to pound the wall and scream with outrage. But, wait! Eventually, Hopkins and 15 MIT women scientists force the institution to acknowledge a history of pervasive gender discrimination and promise changes. An overdue win for women.
Imbler’s debut collection is a glimmering and eye-opening work. Merging memoir and science reporting, these ten essays dive deep both literally and figuratively, covering the lives of goldfish, sand strikers, minuscule jellyfish, and sperm whales. Each piece draws illuminating parallels between the sea creature at its center and Imbler’s own experiences, begging the reader to question just how different we are from our underwater neighbors. Informative and tender, this book will teach you and change you in equal measure.
In 1969 the shock of the Cuyahoga River (among others) bursting into flames prompted passage of the Clean Water Act. But even in that era of political will, agriculture was given a pass; chemical fertilizers were crucial to the industrial farming needed to feed the growing human population, so their usage wasn’t regulated. As Egan shows in this urgent account of our relationship with phosphorus, this lapse set in motion some of today’s most intransigent problems, notably the growing size and numbers of toxic algae blooms, whose thick waves of cyanobacteria close beaches and fisheries around the country. Yet even as marine life continues to die and humans to sicken, phosphate levels keep rising. To understand the problem, Egan takes us on a fast-paced tour of the confounding nature of this “devil’s element,” tracing its role as both a toxin and a crucial element in the evolution and sustenance of earthly life, a nonrenewable resource vulnerable to ruinous exploitation, a World War I weapon, whitener in laundry detergent, and more.