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Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists Paperback – December 28, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


Rosalind Franklin's story is one of many great and unsung women scientists' stories recounted in the brilliant, Eisner-nominated comic book Dignifying Science... --Cory Doctorow, via Boing Boing

It's so good, and remarkable how it got so much material across for each woman, so effectively. --Ruth Lewin Sime, author of Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics

Jim Ottaviani's comic books do an excellent job of telling scientific stories in a fun and absorbing way. --Simon Singh, author of The Code Book and Fermat's Enigma

About the Author

All of Jim Ottaviani's books have been nominated for multiple awards, including Eisners & ALA Popular Paperback of the Year, and they also receive critical praise in publications ranging from The Comics Journal to Physics World to Entertainment Weekly to Discover Magazine, and get national broadcast attention in outlets such as NPR's Morning Edition and the CBS Morning Show.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: G.T. Labs; 3rd edition (December 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0978803736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0978803735
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #399,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
As a male I was utterly oblivious to the the challenges that women scientists face in their academic careers until attending a conference on women in physics opened my eyes to how both small and large aspects of academic life can make the experience of a woman who aspires to an academic career totally different from that of a man in the same position.

"Dignifying Science", a graphic novel that narrates the biographies of 5 women who made substantial scientific contributions, fills a niche that needs much more attention: Hedy Lamarr, a socialite-turned-actress whose idea of frequency hopping even underlies some of today's communications technologies; Lise Meitner, who co-discovered nuclear fission but was not recognized for her contribution by the Nobel prize committee; Rosalind Franklin, whose work set the stage for the discovery of the structure of DNA; Barbara McClintock, whose research in the genetics of corn led her to the idea of "jumping genes" and went unrecognized for about half a century; and Birute Galdikas, the leading researcher of Orang Utans in their native habitats. The stories are framed by two vignettes in the life of Marie Curie, a prologue giving a glimpse of her life before she was recognized, and an epilogue, recounting her reflections 14 years after she won her second Nobel prize. There are endnotes which provide some insight into the author's intentions in conveying the stories as well as further biographical references for each person.

While all stories are engaging and bring attention to an issue that needs much more than it gets, I did find the biographies uneven. The best are those of Hedy Lamarr and of Rosalind Franklin.
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Format: Paperback
A graphic novel about little known female scientists should be a welcome treat, but "Dignifying Science" was a potpourri of good storytelling mixed with bad. The stories of Marie Curie, Heddy Lammar, Rosalyn Franklyn and others are penned by different artists. And the results are wildly mixed. Marie Curies story is told by showing her as a young woman freezing in a Polish apartment and as an older woman signing photos to raise money for her lab. Nothing about her research into radium. Rosalind Franklin, who inadvertently tipped off Watson and Crick about the double-helical nature of DNA, is supposed to be mad-bitchy, but comes across as cute, blithe and hardworking. The impression laid down in the artwork - that W&C cribbed the structure of DNA from her work - is contradicted in the notes section. The story of Birute Galdikas, one of the first to study orangutan behavior in the wild, comes across as an excuse to draw a hot young lass in the jungle.

I have developed a love-hate relationship with Jim Ottaviani and his artistic collaborators. He chooses such great stories, and then proceeds to massacre them with inept art and storytelling. But between his half-assed drawings and his rich notes, there is a lot to learn about these heroines of the search for knowledge. I just can't quit him.
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