CM . . . .
Volume V Number 1 . . . . September 4, 1998
On an ordinary Wednesday morning in October 1994, Bert Brockhouse gets out of bed at his usual time, about 6:45. As he stretches a bit to loosen the overnight aches of his 76-year-old body, he sees a the little red light blinking on the answering machine. Who could have called in the middle of the night? he wonders, as he presses the play button. He listens to a voice announcing that it is from Stockholm: B.N. Brockhouse and C.G. Shull have been selected as recipients of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics." Oh that's interesting," but then he realizes, I am B.N. Brockhouse, and he calls his wife Dorie, to listen to the tape with him again.A Vancouver librarian told science writer Barry Shell, who was looking for a book on the greatest Canadian scientists, that "no such book existed." Unfortunately, that librarian was right. Although there are shelves of books on Canada's historical scientific greats, there were none on our living scientific luminaries.
To rectify this shortcoming, Shell began the "Great Canadian Scientist Project" in 1991. The final result is not only a superb biographical source book for teachers and students, but a humanistic glimpse into the minds of great scientists and their disciplines.
Shell first called for nominations in several Internet discussion groups and soon dozens of names were offered for consideration. Knowing that there were "poor prospects for conventional book publication," he published his first drafts on the World Wide Web in 1995. With the book's publication and the production of the CD-ROM, we now have, he tells us, "the first product available that integrates and utilizes new and traditional media for learning about Canadian men and women of science."
He defines Canadian scientists simply and reasonably - if they held citizenship when they made their most outstanding discoveries, they are eligible for inclusion in the book. Not only does Shell include Canada's Nobel Prize winning chemists and physicists but also medical scientists, geneticists, cognitive psychologists, ethnobotanists, physical anthropologists, meteorologists and leaders in many other scientific specialties.
The book is divided into three parts: "Profiles," "Short Biographies," and "Glossary." The 19 "Profiles" are of living scientists Shell was able to interview. These are the heart of the book. Even though each "Profile" is only six pages long, they provide a wealth of information on the individuals and their work. Each "Profile" is divided into six parts:
The eight page glossary is a welcome supplement to the "Profiles" which often use specialized words from the particular discipline. This mini-scientific dictionary is an excellent quick reference tool for students and teachers.
The "Short Biographies" are a roll-call of over 120 historical and contemporary individuals who have made outstanding contributions and achieved prominence in their particular scientific field. So that students can easily find out more about the individual, Shell includes the sources of his information with the biography.
The Web site <www.science.ca> and CD-ROM contain all the information included in the book; however, both have interesting features and additions. At the web site, students can email a "science-related question" [Not homework?] and receive an answer from a scientist. They can enter the 170 question "Great Canadian Scientists Quiz," which is based on the scientists included in the "Profiles." As well, nominations of scientists who individuals feel should be included in the "Great Canadian Scientist" fraternity are also accepted. Hopefully, the list will keep on growing and growing.
The user friendly CD-ROM allows students to hear a selection of the profiled scientists describe their work and personal lives. The scientists are sorted by categories in the reference section, which also includes a helpful keyword search.
The "Great Canadian Scientist Project" provides all science students and teachers with a versatile and accessible tool. Once you take a look at any of the utilized media, you will thank Berry Shell for his effort.
Kendall Neufeld works at Lord Nelson School in Winnipeg. Ian Stewart is a regular contributor to CM.
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Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without
Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.