Sunday, January 22, 2006

Guinea Pig Scientists: Bold Self-Experiments in Science and Medicine

Dendy, Leslie and Boring, Mel. 2005. GUINEA PIG SCIENTISTS: BOLD SELF-EXPERIMENTERS IN SCIENCE AND MEDICINE. New York: Holt. ISBN 0805073167 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

A compilation of ten essays about men and women, who for a variety of reasons, experiment on themselves to further their scientific goals and dreams, GUINEA PIG SCIENTISTS rewards readers with a fascinating slant on scientific discovery. Each essay provides both entertaining anecdotal and conventional information in the main text, sidebars, photographs, and chapter conclusion, “Now We Know.” The authors spent more than ten years researching this book which contains an introduction and conclusion, authors’ note, timetable, bibliography, and index. Most of the people covered are relatively unknown except the Curies, but there is just the right combination of historical, scientific, and personal information to hook even the most reluctant reader. And there is the gross factor at play: a man who swallows weird objects and then observes what comes out and in what shape, men who inoculate themselves and die as a result, a woman who volunteers to spend four months alone in a cave to test isolation in space. All are told in fascinating detail with an intimate tone that compels readers to keep on.

C.B. Mordan illustrates with woodcuts of an old-fashioned appearance and gathers together a large assortment of black and white photographs that evoke an old scientific journal. However, there is plenty of white space and sidebars to break up the text and provide an inviting appearance. Introducing fascinating non-fiction is a pleasure with such a volume.

Invite readers to form small groups. Randomly assign current scientific or medical issues of concern for discussion. Ask groups to record their answers to the question: “How would this concern be affected by self experimentation? Invite the small groups to regroup to compare their ideas. Write up their findings to post on their school’s website or newspaper.

By the same authors:
Boring, Mel and Leslie Dendy. 1999. FUN WITH NATURE. Minneapolis, MN: NorthWord. ISBN 1559717025
Dendy, Leslie. 1995. TRACKS, SCATS, AND SIGNS. Minneapolis, MN: NorthWord. ISBN 1559715995

By Cay Geisler

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