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Reading books about scientists is a fantastic way to feed your brain. Always a unique read, books about scientists are nothing short of fascinating and help you learn more about scientific findings and experiments that changed the world, from Oppenheimer's physics behind the invention of nuclear war to Stephen Hawking's math that helped us wrap our heads around the Big Bang.
The best books about scientists are the ones that also give you a peek into the everyday life of a genius at work. You can learn about their motivations, their struggles, and their triumphs. You can also learn about the process of scientific discovery, from the first inklings of a new finding, through the controversy of a paradigm shift and all the way to the triumph of a Nobel Prize.
Here are 10 of the best books about scientists that will help you appreciate the world around you in a new way — and will inspire you to question the status quo.
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
With the summer of “Barbenheimer” upon us, now is the perfect time to read the definitive biography of one of the most complicated figures in the history of American science: J. Robert Oppenheimer. Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book follows the rise and fall of the brilliant physicist behind the world’s first atomic bomb. The New York Times Bestseller uses Oppenheimer as a window into the making of the Cold War.
Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout
This National Book Award Finalist combines archival photos, images, and clippings with dazzling line drawings to tell the story of legendary scientist Marie Curie and her husband and collaborator Pierre Curie. Reviewers praise this “sumptuously illustrated” narrative as a must-read for science enthusiasts of all ages. The book also inspired a major motion picture.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
Before John Glenn orbited the earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, black female mathematicians at NASA used math to make it happen. Hidden Figures tells the phenomenal true story of Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and other black mathematicians whose calculations helped fuel American spaceflight.
This #1 New York Times bestseller was the basis for the Academy Award-nominated film starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, and Kevin Costner.
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer
Meet Victorian London’s most dynamic duo: Charles Babbage, the unrealized inventor of the computer, and his accomplice, Ada, Countess of Lovelace, the peculiar proto programmer and daughter of Lord Byron. While this delightful graphic novel strays into historical fiction by imagining a world where Babbage and Lovelace had turned their theoretical machines into Victorian-era computers, it’s still packed with facts about the pair of very real geniuses.
A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr.
In a story as heartbreaking as it is inspiring, A Beautiful Mind follows the tumultuous life of Nobel Prize winner John Forbes Nash, Jr. Decades after debilitating schizophrenia derailed his brilliant career, Nash defied the odds to return to teaching and win one of the highest honors in his field for his work on Game Theory.
This account inspired the Academy Award-winning movie starring Russell Crowe.
Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom
Wu Chien Shiung overcame sexism and racism to become the “Queen of Physics,” with research admired by scientists like Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer. She would later become the first female instructor hired by Princeton University and the first woman to lead the American Physical Society. This inspiring, engaging, and beautifully illustrated book is perfect for any child interested in science.
On the Move: A Life
When Oliver Sacks was twelve-years-old, his report card read: “Sacks will go far if he does not go too far.” In this honest and charming memoir, the late neurologist and science writer shares the struggles and triumphs that fueled him to help countless patients and change the way the world viewed the human mind.
Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America
This book recounts Operation Paperclip, in which the U.S. government ferried Third Reich scientists into influential American jobs. This decades-long, covert project brought 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians to the U.S. along with their families, including active members of the Nazi party. This book untangles how the legacies of men like Wernher von Braun cast a dark shadow on the history of American innovation.
Einstein: His Life and Universe
Walter Isaacson—who has written biographies of Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, and others—consistently knocks it out of the park when it comes to telling the life stories of public figures. His biography of Albert Einstein is no exception. This meticulously researched and utterly engaging book shows how Einstein’s rebellious personality enabled his brilliant research—and how his findings helped shape the modern age for better and for worse.
The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World
The famous researcher Stephen J. Gould once called Mary Anning "probably the most important unsung (or inadequately sung) collecting force in the history of paleontology.” Born in 1799, Anning spent her childhood hunting for fossils as a source of income for her family. Her prolific paleontological finds would eventually catch the attention of museums and academics—and help inspire and support Charles Darwin’s work on evolution.
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