Uncharted, Unexplored, and Unexplained Book Reviews

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Lane Education Service, December 2008

On Florence Nightingale and the Advancement of Nursing

Florence Nightingale, the unhappy daughter of upper-crust British parents, was completely uninterested in the social life and functions common among people of their social class. She knew God had a plan for her, but she was unable to determine that plan until she was 24. That's when she decided to dedicate her life to helping sick people. At that time, nursing was not a respected vocation, but at 31, she found her first nursing job, took charge of the deplorable situation and within 6 months had the hospital running smoothly. Soon the Crimean War broke out and she found herself in Turkey where she organized the nurses, comforted the wounded and ill soldiers and, in the end, established a name for herself. She returned to England as a hero, but refused to let herself become a celebrity. This 48-page book tells her life story in an easy-to-read style. Throughout the book, the author has FYI sections on other facts that are related to nursing and people of the Victorian Age. It also includes a chronology of Nightingale's life, a timeline of nursing, glossary, extended reading list and an index. This is a good all-around book with information that would be good to add to the research part of a library collection in both elementary and middle school libraries. I will enjoy having it in my library to read parts of it aloud as we study early American history.

School Library Journal, May 2006

On Henry Bessemer: Making Steel From Iron and Auguste & Louis Lumiére and the Rise of Motion Pictures

These books are full of information on the scientific advancement being explored. Each title includes full-page "FYInfo" boxes on related topics. For example, Lumiére includes headings such as "The First Movie Mystery," "Thomas Edison," and "The Dreyfus Affair". All offer added insight into either the time or the topic under discussion. Plentiful photographs and reproductions enhance the texts.

VOYA, December 2006

On Henry Bessemer: Making Steel From Iron and Auguste and Louis Lumiere and the Rise of Motion Pictures

Many modern technologies now taken for granted were born in the nineteenth century. The various books in this series provide a history of these inventions and the inventors behind them. Henry Bessemer and Auguste and Louis Lumiére mix biography and science, including not just the lives of the main inventors but also brief looks at others who contributed to these advancements and the historical events that influenced their production. Auguste and Louis Lumiere created the cinematographe, one of the first motion picture cameras. They also started the commercial public showings of movies. Henry Bessemer pioneered a method for making steel cheaply, quickly, and in large quantities. Both inventors profoundly changed the world. These short books provide a decent amount of information for their size, and they are eye-catching enough to prompt browsers to pick them up. They also provide good, if simple, explanations of some of the science behind the discoveries. The context provided for the discoveries helps to explain why they came about the way they did. Because the details are limited by space, the further reading, including web sites, is helpful. Also useful are the two chronologies, one for the person(s) and another for the development of the invention. These books will be most useful for students looking to quickly find information for school assignments. Other volumes focus on such pioneers as Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, and the Curies along with other notables.

VOYA, June 2005

On Joseph Lister and the Story of Antiseptics, Karl Benz and the Single Cylinder Engine, and Dmitri Mendeleyev and the Periodic Table

This sixteen-volume biographical series covers major inventors and medical/scientific explorers. Written at a fifth-sixth grade reading level, it has much appeal for reluctant readers. All volumes contain numerous photographs and illustrations. Each of the five chapters has a page-long FYInfo sidebar giving perspective on historical and cultural influences. Two of the strongest items in each volume are the chronology tracing the life of the subject and the timeline of discovery covering scientific advancement, from the earliest sparks to current times. Although most of these inventors are well represented in many libraries, some have received scant attention from biographers. Bankston's biography of Karl Benz traces how this frustrated bicyclist set out to develop a new type of horseless carriage. The persistence and backing of his wife, Berta, led Benz to German patent #37435, Patent-Motorwagen-Benz, a document considered to be the birth certificate of the modern automobile. Benz was never a strong businessman, and his company struggled in the aftermath of World War I. A merger with Daimler led to the prestigious product, the Mercedes-Benz, which is still in production today. Dmitri Mendeleyev and the Periodic Table explores the passion for science and flamboyant personality that defined Mendeleyev. Born in Siberia, Mendeleyev had little use for the classics, preferring his beloved chemistry over everything, including his first wife. A noted author of definitive chemistry textbooks, he struggled to arrange the chemical elements in a logical order. His resulting Periodic Table of Elements hangs in classrooms the world over. Joseph Lister and the Story of Antiseptics presents the dramatic reduction in operating room deaths achieved by the Scottish surgeon. Hospitals were more deadly than battlefields in the mid-1800s as hand washing, clean sheets, and sterile instruments were nonexistent. Lister's pioneering work changed it all. Other volumes in the series focus on inventors Morse, Bell, Eastman, Marconi, Edison, Faraday, and Daguerre, and scientists Curie, LaVoisier, Nightingale, Koch, Mendel, and Dalton.

South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, Spring 2005

On Louis Daguerre and the Story of the Daguerreotype

The history of the photograph and its inventors is told in a story-like format. The daguerreotype was developed over the years, along with other improvements, and Louis Daguerre lived to see his device embraced by millions. There is a lot of background information about the theater, art, and life in the 19th century. Readers can use this book for reports and background information on an important invention that led to today's photography.

School Library Journal, February 2005

On John Dalton and the Atomic Theory and Michael Faraday and the Discovery of Electromagnetism

Both books offer short profiles of these scientists. They are aimed at students who need more information than an encyclopedia can offer but don't feel up to tackling full-length biographies. The many colorful illustrations help keep the look interesting, but also cut down on the information given. The scientific discoveries of the men are explained in simple terms, sometimes even broken down into numbered points. Struggling students may prefer this direct approach, and colorful graphics will keep the texts from intimidating them.

Science Books & Films, December 2004

On Dmitri Mendeleyev and the Periodic Table

This brief account is one of a series of books presenting notable scientific developments of the 19th century and directed towards upper elementary and middle school students. In five short chapters, it traces the life of Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev, from early childhood through his university training, teaching career, and contributions to his homeland, Russia. Each chapter ends with a page providing background to Russian history during Mendeleyev's lifetime. In addition to developing the chemical periodic table, he contributed to both economic and political developments in Russia. Other characteristics, too—for example, his efforts to improve peasant life—are given, with equal emphasis to his scientific achievements. The text presents a detailed understanding of the man and his struggle to rise to a prominent position in Russian society. The book would serve well as supplementary reading for high school classes and for college classes presenting science to non-science majors. A chronology or Mendeleyev's life and a timetable of chemical developments from antiquity to the present are useful additions. Also useful is a glossary of terms perhaps unfamiliar to younger readers. Suggested additional readings are listed. This is an excellent presentation that is suitable and informative for a wide audience of readers.

Booklist, October 2004

On Joseph Lister and Antiseptics and Dmitri Mendeleyev and the Periodic Table

Two entries in the Uncharted, Unexplored, and Unexplained: Scientific Advancements of the 19th Century series explores the achievements of nineteenth-century scientists and inventors. Mendeleyev begins with a fictionalized account of the scientist's childhood followed by a straightforward summary of the chemist's life. Sidebars offer background on the political upheavals in Russia during the time are important because he was involved in radical politics...these [books] will be useful to students who need more information than an encyclopedia provides. Backmatter includes a timeline, a chronology, notes, a bibliography, and an index.

Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, 2004

On Karl Benz

Part of the Uncharted, Unexplored and Unexplained series, this title provides an accessible and factual look at Karl Benz, the inventor of the two-stroke internal combustion engine and the patent holder for the first car using an internal combustion engine. FYI pages provide information on Benz’s contemporaries and on world events. Color illustrations and photos are well placed.  Includes a chronology, a discovery timeline, glossary, chapter notes and further reading suggestions. A diagram of how the engine works would have been helpful and the font used is small and a bit difficult to read. Also part of the same series: Dmitri Mendeleyev (Zannos – 1-58415-267-2) and Gregor Mendel (Bankston – 1-58415-266-4). Mendeleyev includes the Periodic Table of the Elements and a discussion of new elements.  Mendel discusses the obstacles to his research and the foundation he laid for future geneticists. All three integrate the personalities and characteristics of the inventors and scientists with their work and briefly discuss how their contributions affect us today.