A memoir that explores how a philosophy of life can be built from the tools of scientific inquiry. It teaches us how to approach difficult problems by asking the right questions and truly listening to the answers—and how we may find meaning through exploring the wonders of the universe around us. From one of the world’s leading planetary scientists.
The scientific career of Lindy Elkins-Tanton is impressive, even inspiring, but as her memoir reveals, her road into the world of science was a rocky one ... Rightly aware that the sciences are as much about people as data, A Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Woman covers its author’s prodigious scientific work alongside her traumatic background and her struggles to convince her institution to address the behavior of an abusive faculty member. The book’s honesty is not cynical, but rather sincerely optimistic, as Elkins-Tanton explores ways to create better, more inclusive disciplines through curiosity, generosity, and collaboration.
Given the title of her memoir, a reader might expect to be immersed solely in a scientific story: how a geologist progressed over the years from hammering terrestrial rocks as a student to leading a deep-space mission. But this riveting book, beautifully written, is far more. With a brave candor, Elkins-Tanton examines all aspects of her experiences — personal and professional, the good and the bad — to plumb the very meaning of her life. She also offers novel approaches to education, tactics for handling sexual harassment cases in academia and new methods for team-building in scientific research that go beyond the 'hero model' ... She delightfully recounts each step of her procedures like a chef lovingly describing her favorite recipe ... offers valuable lessons on successful scientific strategies ... The expressive descriptions of her field trips to Siberia are the most engaging sections of the book, providing a ringside seat to the discomforts and thrills of a geological expedition.
... engaging and candid ... spotlights the challenges and successes of being a woman in a male-dominated field. It also provides an opportunity for her to share her philosophy of life: always ask questions, but more importantly, listen to the answers ... With wide appeal to a wide audience, this work provides a closer look at the human side of science.