Humans exist in a state of constant discovery as scientists continue to unlock the mysteries of who we are and how we came to be. Science can be thrilling as we lay witness to fossils being unearthed and space exploration expanding. The Library’s most recently-acquired science books allow us to take a step back and explore fascinating scientific breakthroughs within their historical context. Take a deep dive into science topics through their intriguing back stories, from a personal exploration of who we are, to a battle for human safety, to a story international intrigue.
New advances in genetics make it possible for us to explore our ancestry, heredity, health risks and traits in an entirely new way as soon-to-be parent, Carl Zimmer, was forced to confront during the genetic counseling session he attended prior to the birth of his daughter. He recognized the significant role genetics play in who we become, but also wondered about other factors that determine our traits. In She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity, Zimmer explores how the synthesis of our DNA, our environment and so many other factors make up who we are. The way he weaves his own experience with genetic sequencing, raising two children and investigating the field with scientific research makes for a compelling and personal read. Available in the John T. Richardson Library at call number 576.5 Z721S.
At the turn of the 20th century, as more people moved to cities and before the development of refrigeration, chemical food preservatives were in high demand. Companies began adding formaldehyde, borax and other chemicals to American food products with no labeling requirements and little understanding of their health effects. The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Singe-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century commemorates the battle between the big food industry and Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemist and food safety activist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who enlisted a “poison squad” to test the health effects of commonly used preservatives. For years, these bowtie-wearing men tested meals laced with suspect chemicals and documented their effects. Their sacrifice and dedication and Wiley’s advocacy led the way to the Pure Food and Drug Act, which banned “poisonous or deleterious foods” from entering the U.S. market and required full ingredient labeling and safety regulations we so often take for granted. Available in the John T. Richardson Library at Call Number 363.19264092 W6766p.
The life of Eric Prokopi reads like the plot line of an Indiana Jones movie. Paige Williams follows the history of this adventurer who made his living collecting and selling fossils to the highest bidder in The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal and the Quest for Earth’s Ultimate Trophy. She captures the controversial attempt to sell a nearly complete T. bataar, a close relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex, at auction. Through the story of this incident and the legal battle that ensued, Prokopi explores who owns our history and the challenge of assigning value and ownership of these crucial artifacts of natural history. Available in the John T. Richardson Library at Call Number 560.75 W7261d.