Science has always been a fascinating subject for me. When I was in seventh grade, we had to do a report during our human anatomy unit, and there were two topics that I wanted to study. When I couldn’t decide, I asked my teacher if I could do two reports. She said yes—thank you, Mrs. Vrieze! To this day, one of my favorite reading categories is popular science. (Hey—there’s an idea for a blog post!)
Here are some very interesting books on scientists that were not necessarily heralded in their time. Some had ideas that were totally dismissed in their time, but were found out to be correct as science advanced. Some have been forgotten—but it was their shoulders that other, more famous scientists stood on to make their own discoveries.
Before the World Was Ready : Stories of Daring Genius in Science by Claire Eamer. 9781554515363. 2013. Gr 4-7.
We have all studied how Louis Pasteur figured out that microscopic organisms caused diseases, and Joseph Lister is credited for learning the importance of sterilizing wounds and surgical instruments. But how many of you are familiar with Ignatz Semmelweis? Decades before Pasteur & Lister, Semmelweis realized the connection between mothers dying of childbed fever and doctors not washing their hands. Doctors refused to believe that they were harming their patients, and so he was ignored.
This compelling book describes others who were scorned for their ideas while they were alive or who kept quiet about their discoveries for years, even decades, until they felt the world was ready to hear them. The book’s conclusion challenges readers to spot the trail-breakers today—and maybe even to break some trail themselves!
Benjamin Franklin (Giants of Science) by Kathleen Krull. 9780670012879. 2013. Gr 5-8.
Most biographies of Benjamin Franklin that I have read deal with his success in politics and foreign relations, but this addition to the Giants in Science series focuses mainly on his fascination with science. Franklin had only two years of formal schooling, but despite that, his impact on the world went far beyond his lightning experiment and his invention of the Franklin stove.
Franklin did not patent his many inventions, because he felt knowledge should be shared freely. And in addition to his discoveries and inventions, he also made many deductions that could not be proven until much later. In his later years, he was very excited about where science was headed, regretting only that he “was born so soon” and wouldn’t be part of what was to come.
Recentering the Universe : The Radical Theories of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton by Ron Miller. 9780761358855. 2013. Gr 7-12.
From ancient times, people believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, with the sun and the planets circling around us, and religious teachings supported this belief. But through the 1500s and 1600s, four men (Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton) challenged this belief. Despite a great deal of controversy and the very real risk to their reputations and even their lives, they held to what they observed.
The National Science Teachers Association calls this an “extraordinarily useful book” and SLJ agrees, stating that it is “a useful and first purchase” for reports needing information on astronomy and astronomers. This book can even be recommended to adults interested in the subject.