Science. The very word on my school timetable would induce a shudder. I can still remember her name. I shall call her Mrs H, the biology teacher from hell. Such was her genius, she managed – for each 45 minute lesson – to remove from the study of life itself, anything and everything even vaguely resembling fascination, awe or wonder. It was replaced with stodge. Dog-eared text books. Eye-fluttering irritation whenever a question was asked or a concept not immediately grasped. I hated it and, as a result, hated science.
Only as an adult have I begun to discover what science should be about – curiosity, speculation, boldness. As a teacher, I have gained some insight into the dismal limits of my knowledge – learning alongside the children I’ve taught (I hope, in desperation, that my lessons have led to a mild smattering of awe and wonder – at least more than those taught by the dreaded Mrs H).
If only, all those years ago, I’d had a teacher who’d shoved Rebel Science into my hands – a fabulous book written by Dan Green and illustrated by David Lyttleton (why oh why aren’t the names of non-fiction authors and illustrators placed on the cover?).
Rebel Science takes the reader on a big dipper of a journey, revealing the extraordinary human beings who, by curiosity, by speculation and by sheer boldness, have revealed truths about our world. Quite rightly, these scientists are presented as heroes and adventurers, endlessly nudging at the boundaries of what we know.
Each section tells a different story – the story of the earth, for example – by way of the scientists themselves, brilliantly and wittily illustrated, with clear and punchy explanations of their ideas. The major names are all here – Darwin, Newton, Einstein – but also many lesser-known scientists (I checked, but It won’t surprise you in the least that Mrs H doesn’t feature in the index).
This is a great book for scientists at the top end of primary school and, as some of the topics are complex (at least they are to me!), it would keep older children interested too. If, unlike Mrs H, you want to inspire the next wave of scientists, you couldn’t do much better than hand them Rebel Science to read.