A Book A Week Challenge – Week 47

Hope Jahren’s autobiographical and memoir makes up for a very important read in the generation of rapid discoveries. It takes you through the stressful and yet reveling joy of being a scientist in a domain that is eye-washing funded as compared to defense and warfare. It takes you through the life a young girl who aspired to be a scientist and the hardships that she had to endeavor to fight for things that you love in life.

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Book #: 47

Title: Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren

Pages: 306

The book is split into three sections which mark three key aspects of a plant life: Roots and Leaves; Wood and Knots; Flowers and Fruit. It is poetic and scientific at the same time.

It would be really hard to escape from the abstractness of it used by Geobiologist- Hope Jahren as she covers her multiple decades of life as a woman in science. The domain that she picked up is not the most common one – at least for what I have knowledge about- the plants.

“If you know how to listen, each ring (of tree) describes how the rain fell and wind blew and the sun appeared every day at dawn”

That is a whole lot of information that can be read from a single source- that is taken granted by our generation due to its universal appearance. She reminds of this right at the beginning of this book – where she asks the reader to look at the trees around, only to value their contribution to the greatness good of the place we live in.

“Trees stands tall as a witness to the history that evolved in front of them – from the dinosaurs to the bloody man wars to the technological advancements that our species had made”

She doesn’t shy away from making a hard statement about the lives of the women in science – who is often met with skepticism driven by the sexist attitude of the managements yet she makes sure that the joy of a scientist comes fighting the odds.

As she narrates her life as a lead scientist, it goes without saying the valuable contribution of Bill, who we were introduced as a homie with Armenian background but a very knowledgeable and admirable partner to have in the field, that demands extreme patience – sometimes for days, months or even years – to discover one simple derivation.

There is a whole lot of book that describes various plant species and how they evolve to be in the form that they are today. It is not a complementary read to the biography but the main theme of looking closely at things that we not usually pay attention to and the joy that comes through it.

It is described brilliantly in the opening note by Helen Keller:

“The more I handled things and learned their names and uses, the more joyous and confident grew my sense of kinship with the rest of the world”

My favorite section of the book is whole of Chapter 9 in Part Two where she writes about the emotion that runs through the minds of fully blown mania driven individual. This one chapter is worth reading multiple times (I read it three times since I first read this chapter yesterday).

“You need to run. You need to feel the air on your skin. You need to take off your shirt and run so you can feel the air and you explain this to the person holding you that it’s okay it’s okay to do this but he doesn’t get it and his face looks worried like someone died and you feel pity for him because he doesn’t realize how wonderful and okay and okay and okay everything is”

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Hope Jahren and Bill

 

Overall, “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren is a very important book in the present times – a) for a person in science as it describes the virtues of a successful scientist, b) for a woman who aims to pursue her interests in her life against all the odds and with the joys of being a mother and c) for every one of us who miss the experience of connecting multiple generations of evolution just looking at the bark of a tree in your surroundings.

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