The Remarkable Life of Nanoscience Pioneer Mildred Dresselhaus
- Longlisted for the Prize for Excellence in Science Books in the Young Adult Science Book category, AAAS/Subaru, 2023
320 pp., 5 x 8 in, 30 color illus., 22 b&w illus.
- Published: March 7, 2023
- Published: March 1, 2022
- Published: March 1, 2022
The life of trailblazing physicist Mildred Dresselhaus, who expanded our understanding of the physical world.
As a girl in New York City in the 1940s, Mildred “Millie” Dresselhaus was taught that there were only three career options open to women: secretary, nurse, or teacher. But sneaking into museums, purchasing three-cent copies of National Geographic, and devouring books on the history of science ignited in Dresselhaus (1930–2017) a passion for inquiry. In Carbon Queen, science writer Maia Weinstock describes how, with curiosity and drive, Dresselhaus defied expectations and forged a career as a pioneering scientist and engineer. Dresselhaus made highly influential discoveries about the properties of carbon and other materials and helped reshape our world in countless ways—from electronics to aviation to medicine to energy. She was also a trailblazer for women in STEM and a beloved educator, mentor, and colleague.
Her path wasn't easy. Dresselhaus's Bronx childhood was impoverished. Her graduate adviser felt educating women was a waste of time. But Dresselhaus persisted, finding mentors in Nobel Prize–winning physicists Rosalyn Yalow and Enrico Fermi. Eventually, Dresselhaus became one of the first female professors at MIT, where she would spend nearly six decades. Weinstock explores the basics of Dresselhaus's work in carbon nanoscience accessibly and engagingly, describing how she identified key properties of carbon forms, including graphite, buckyballs, nanotubes, and graphene, leading to applications that range from lighter, stronger aircraft to more energy-efficient and flexible electronics.
“Carbon Queen is a true delight: a powerful story, perfectly told, which is equal parts inspiring and informative. Weinstock's words effortlessly capture Dresselhaus's enthusiasm, tenacity, and genius. A fitting tribute to a scientific legend.”
Jess Wade, physicist, Imperial College London; author of Nano: The Spectacular Science of the Very (Very) Small
“Every chapter is a breathtaking journey into Dresselhaus's professional and private life. The explorations of gender equity and inclusion in STEM are masterfully woven together in a compelling narrative.”
Christine Grant, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Professor and College of Engineering Inaugural Associate Dean of Faculty Development, North Carolina State University; coeditor of Success Strategies from Women in STEM
“Maia Weinstock's Carbon Queen is a strong introduction to the inspired path of Dr. Millie Dresselhaus, an extraordinary genius whose leadership opened doors, especially for women, and whose discoveries impact all of our lives today.”
Megan Smith, 3rd US Chief Technology Officer, 2014–2017; shift7 founder and CEO; Member, National Academy of Engineering
“A striking portrait of a brilliant mind... This is a fascinating introduction to a game-changing figure.”
Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
"Carbon Queen is Maia Weinstock's account of the remarkable life of nanoscience pioneer Mildred Dresselhaus, who, from the 1950s, defied society's expectations of women to become an influential scientist and engineer."
"An exceptional biography showcasing the achievements of a brilliant scientist who broadened the range of the possible for women.”
Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
“In Carbon Queen, Weinstock has pieced together Dresselhaus's story using decades of profiles, print interviews, oral histories conducted with the scientist herself, and new interviews with her contemporaries...Readers are also left with vivid images of the woman herself, as a child on her way to music school; as a high-spirited teen, sneaking friends into the Hayden Planetarium; and finally as a trailblazing scientist who, politely but always with great effect, gave the academy hell for its dismal track record with women.
"This lovely biography is completely accessible to non-scientists. It both tells the story of a remarkable scientist and makes a larger point about the perils of overlooking women in science."
The Christian Century
“With Carbon Queen, Weinstock does more than tell the story of a brilliant scientist's life; she transports you into a world of curiosity and wonder, driven by enthusiasm and persistence.”
"Readers both familiar and new to this woman scientist's life and work will enjoy getting to know her better through this book."