Suzuki, David T(akayoshi) 1936-
SUZUKI, David T(akayoshi) 1936-
PERSONAL: Born March 24, 1936, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; son of Kaoru Carr (owner of a dry-cleaning store) and Setsu Sue (Nakamura) Suzuki; married Joane Sunahara, 1958 (divorced, 1965); married Tara Elizabeth Cullis, 1972; children: (first marriage) Tamiko Lynda, Troy Takashi, Laura Miye; (second marriage) Severn Setsu Elizabeth, Sarika Freda. Education: Amherst College, B.S. (biology; cum laude), 1958; University of Chicago, Ph.D. (zoology), 1961. Hobbies and other interests: Skiing, fishing, camping, snorkeling, hiking, canoeing.
ADDRESSES: Home—2477 Pt. Grey Rd., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6K 1A1. Office—219-2211 West 4th St., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6K 4S2.
CAREER: Geneticist, university professor, broadcast journalist, environmentalist, writer, and educator. Amherst College, Amherst, MA, teaching assistant, 1957; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, research assistant, 1958, teaching assistant in zoology, 1959; Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, research associate in biology division, 1961; University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, assistant professor of genetics, 1962; University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, assistant professor, 1963, associate professor, 1965, professor of zoology, 1969; Sustainable Development Research Institute, senior associate. Host of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) television series Suzuki on Science, 1971-72, Science Magazine, 1974-79, Nature of Things, 1979—, and A Planet for the Taking, 1985; host of CBC radio programs Quirks and Quarks, 1974-79, It's a Matter of Survival, 1989, and From Naked Ape to Super Species, 1999. Founder with wife, Dr. Tara E. Cullis, of David Suzuki Foundation, 1990—. Member, Science Council of Canada, 1978-84. International speaker and lecturer.
MEMBER: Royal Society of Canada, Canadian Society of Cell Biology (president, 1969-70), Canadian Civil Liberties Association (director, 1982-87), American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow), Genetics Society of America (secretary, 1980-82).
AWARDS, HONORS: Seacie Memorial fellowship, 1969-72; officer, Order of Canada, 1976; Bell-Northern Award for radio, 1976, 1978, and 1979, and for television, 1983; Cybil Award, Canadian Broadcasters League, 1977; Sanford Fleming Medal, 1982; Canadian Medical Association Medal of Honour, 1984; Quill Award, 1985; United Nations Environmental Progress Medal, 1985, and Progress Global 500, 1989; Governor General's Award for Conservation, 1985; ACTRA Award for Television, 1985; Gemini Award for Television, 1986, 1992; UNESCO Kalinga Prize, 1986; Gold Medal Award, Biology Society of Canada, 1986; Information Book Award, 1987, for Looking at Insects; Author of the Year, Canadian Booksellers Association, 1990. Has received honorary degrees from University of Prince Edward Island, 1974, Acadia University, 1979, University of Windsor, 1979, Trent University, 1981, Lakehead University, 1986, University of Calgary, 1986, Governor's State University, 1986, Queen's University, 1987, McMaster University, 1987, Carleton University, 1987, and Amherst College, 1989; recipient of honorary doctoral degrees in Canada, the U. S., and Australia; adopted by two First Nations and conferred seven names from aboriginal people in Canada and Australia.
(With Anthony J. F. Griffiths and Richard C. Lewontin) An Introduction to Genetic Analysis, W. H. Freeman (San Francisco, CA), 1981.
Metamorphosis: Stages in a Life (memoir), Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1987.
(With Peter Knudtson) Genethics: The Ethics of Engineering Life, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1989.
Inventing the Future, Allen & Unwin (Boston MA), 1990.
(With Anita Gordon) It's a Matter of Survival, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1991.
(With Peter Knudtson) Wisdom of the Elders: Honoring Sacred Native Visions of Nature, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Joseph Levine) The Secret of Life: Redesigning the Living World, WGBH Boston (Boston, MA), 1993.
Time to Change: Essays, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994.
(With Keibo Oiwa) The Japan We Never Knew: A Journey of Discovery, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1996.
(With Amanda McConnell) The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature, Greystone Books (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1997, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 1998.
Earth Time: Essays, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
(With Holly Dressel) From Naked Ape to Superspecies: A Personal Perspective on Humanity and the Global Eco-Crisis, Stoddart (Buffalo, NY), 1999.
(With Holly Dressel) Good News for a Change, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
(With Barbara Hehner) Looking at Plants, illustrated by Debbie Drew-Brooke, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1985, Wiley (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Barbara Hehner) Looking at the Body, illustrated by Lou Reynolds, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1986, Wiley (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Barbara Hehner) Looking at Insects, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1986, Wiley (New York, NY), 1992.
(With Barbara Hehner) Looking at Senses, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1986.
(With Eileen Thalenberg and Peter Knudtson) David Suzuki Talks about AIDS, General Paperbacks (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1989.
(With Barbara Hehner) Looking at the Environment, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1989.
(With Barbara Hehner) Looking at Weather, Wiley (New York, NY), 1991.
Nature in the Home, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1993.
If We Could See the Air, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994.
The Backyard Time Detectives, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, Stoddart (Buffalo, NY), 1995.
(With Kathy Vanderlinden) You Are the Earth: From Dinosaur Breath to Pizza, Greystone Books (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2001.
(With Kathy Vanderlinden) Eco-Fun: Great Experiments, Projects, and Games for A Greener Earth, Greystone Books (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: "Canada's best teacher is . . . geneticist David Takayoshi Suzuki, whose lectures and broadcasts have turned science from being boring to being fun," wrote Peter C. Newman in Maclean's. Suzuki, a trained and award-winning zoologist and geneticist, has become a major voice in Canada and across North America in popularizing science and in the battle to protect the environment. Moderator and host of several popular television and radio shows for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Suzuki has become know internationally for his popular show The Nature of Things, which airs in over fifty countries.
In addition to his academic duties and broadcast ventures, Suzuki also writes books for both children and adults. Teaming up with Barbara Hehner, he has published six books in the "Looking At" series, books which introduce young readers to biological topics from the life of plants to the environment and the human body. Additionally, Suzuki has taken a look at science for preschoolers with his books about Megan and Jamie in the "Nature All Around" series. Working with Kathy Vanderlinden, Suzuki has also written a pair of books, Your Are the Earth and Eco-Fun, which blend environmental awareness with practical experiments and projects for budding scientists. Suzuki's writings for adults include Genethics: The Ethics ofEngineering Life, Wisdom of the Elders, Secrets of Life, and The Sacred Balance, books that look at mankind's role in nature and how we can reestablish the lost ecological balance plaguing our contemporary world. His Introduction to Genetic Analysis is the most widely used genetics textbook in the world, and is in its eighth edition.
Born in 1936 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Suzuki is a third-generation Japanese Canadian and the only boy in a family of four children. His parents ran a drycleaning business and encouraged their precocious son to speak only English and to identify more with Canadians of European descent rather than looking to his Japanese roots. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, the lives of the Suzuki family and thousands of other Japanese Canadians were altered forever. Relocated from the west coast of Canada, these citizens of Japanese descent lost their homes, businesses, and savings. The Suzukis ended up in Slocan City, an old mining town in the Rocky Mountains, living in a one-room apartment in a run-down building with the mother barely making enough to support the family as a secretary. After a year of working on the Trans-Canada Highway, the father was also sent to Slocan City, where he found employment in a store.
In 1943 Suzuki was finally able to attend a school opened by several young, untrained teachers. Attending with other Japanese-Canadian children, he made rapid progress because of his understanding of English, but as a result he did not fit in well with the other students, who were largely Japanese speakers. The family made the best of these bad circumstances and encouraged their son to do as well as he could in his studies. Suzuki's father questioned him each night about what he had learned that day at school, as Suzuki recalled in his memoir, Metamorphosis: Stages in a Life, and listened closely to what his son told him: "It gave me a sense that what I was reciting was important and I loved dredging up the details." Their lives as outsiders in Canada also influenced Suzuki to study and work hard so he could prove his worth. Another important influence from his father was a love of nature and the natural world. From the time when he was a small child Suzuki would accompany his father on fishing expeditions or camping and hiking trips in the woods, experiences that helped to shape him into the biologist he later became.
The discrimination the family faced during the war did not end with the war's conclusion, for the government of British Columbia declared that no Japanese or Japanese Americans were to be allowed to live in the province. So the family moved east to Leamington, Ontario, where Suzuki's father found work at a drycleaning business. Here Suzuki began demonstrating a keen interest in the natural world, collecting all manner of flora and fauna. As a young high school student he won several awards in speech and oratory, and with the family's move to London, Ontario, he entered London Central Collegiate High School. There, as a senior, he became student body president despite the fact that he was among only a handful of non-white students.
Earning a scholarship, Suzuki attended Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he finally began to accept his racial identity and stopped longing to be more European looking. Here he was particularly drawn to classes in embryology and genetics, and a senior project in the genetics of fruit fly propagation convinced him that he had the unique ability to relate technical facts in a highly digestible format. Graduating cum laude in biology in 1958, he later earned his Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Chicago, where he worked further on the genetics of the fruit fly and their so-called chromosomal cross-overs. This early research in genetic mutation won him a reputation—at the age of only twenty-five—as a "brash, dynamic young research scientist," according to B. K. Adams in a Books in Canada review of Suzuki's Metamorphosis. After a year as a postdoctoral researcher in the United States, however, and with offers from three top-notch American universities in hand, he abruptly returned to Canada, profoundly affected by the racism he experienced in America. Eventually he found a home at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he became a full professor in 1969.
Increasingly, though, Suzuki was drawn to the field of broadcasting and the popularization of science. Working with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, he hosted and moderated numerous radio and television programs that brought science to the layperson. After the 1970s, his energies became funneled more into such projects and away from genetic research. Suzuki also became an outspoken advocate for environmentalism and for minority rights, championing the causes of indigenous peoples in Canada and in other countries.
Suzuki's career in writing for young readers began in 1985 with publication of the first title in the "Looking At" series, Looking at Plants, "an enjoyable, stimulating way to introduce children to the wide connection our lives have with plants," according to Bob Marquis in Quill and Quire. Divided into two parts, "Plants All around You" and "Plants up Close," the book presents botany for young readers in a "non-threatening way," as Marquis noted. Donn Kushner, writing in Canadian Children's Literature, felt that Suzuki "presents clearly written and well-illustrated accounts" of all the functional parts of plants in Looking at Plants. Full of amazing facts and activities, the book was a "real delight," according to Marquis, and set the tone for the remaining five titles in the series.
Reviewing Looking at Insects in Quill and Quire, Emily Hearn felt that the book, "with its lucid, lively prose and many explicit activities, is a boon." The human body gets the Suzuki treatment in Looking at the Body, in which the functions of the major organs are explained. Eve Williams, writing in Canadian Materials, felt the book lived up to the standards set by previous volumes in the series, and further praised the "cheerful style and clear explanations," as well as the tone, which she found "encouraging." Williams also noted that the entire series presents science in a "nonpatronizing" manner. In Looking at the Senses Suzuki examines the mechanics of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, while "injecting learning with a sense of fun," as Pamela Young wrote in Maclean's.
While Canadian Children's Literature critic Ronald Melzack took issue with some of the activities and with the organization of both Looking at the Body and Looking at the Senses, he also applauded Suzuki's "characteristic enthusiasm, curiosity and delight in knowledge," and praised the text in both books for being "straightforward, pitched at young people, and enjoyable." Other books in the series include Looking at Weather and Looking at the Environment. Fred Leicester, writing in Canadian Materials, felt that Suzuki dealt with most of the major environmental issues—from acid rain to endangered species—"in a way that makes these serious issues relevant to children." Leicester also praised Suzuki for putting forward scientific facts "accurately and in an engaging fashion." In a combined review of Looking at Plants, Looking at Insects, and Looking at the Environment, Lyle E. Craker remarked in Science Books and Films that the books "offer an exciting adventure in the world of science." And reviewing Looking at the Body, Looking at Senses, and Looking at Weather in School Library Journal, Elaine Fort Weischedel commended Suzuki's "chatty, lucid explanations [which] should keep [youngsters] reading."
Suzuki has penned another science series, "Nature All Around," teaming up with illustrator Eugenie Fernandes and targeting preschool audiences. Using the two children Jamey and Megan, he assembles interesting and intriguing introductions to basic scientific principles. With Nature in the Home the duo has to take their usual nature walk indoors because of the rain. With their father, they discover all sorts of natural products inside the house, from the mahogany in the picture frames to rubber in the tires of a bike. Though Mary Beaty, writing in Quill and Quire, found Suzuki's premise of blurring the line between nature out there and within us "admirable," she also felt that the "format is so slight that the information it contains is misleading." Beaty felt that the true "natural" products in most homes consist of spiders and dust mites. Janet McNaughton, writing in Books in Canada, was more positive about the title, calling it a "painless way" to get children to understand how nature plays such an important role in our lives.
Suzuki followed this book with two more in the same series, If We Could See the Air and The Backyard Time Detectives. In the former book, Megan goes for a walk with her mother, who comments on how the air supports birds and airplanes and gives people oxygen while providing the plant world with carbon dioxide. Theo Hersh, reviewing the picture book in Quill and Quire, called it a "helpful introduction to a difficult and important topic." Jamey and Megan team up again in The Backyard Time Detectives in which they learn about the eternal rule of change in nature from their parents. They see how plants come from seeds and how the entire structure of their garden is the result of long-ago glaciers. Quill and Quire contributor Fred Boer felt this was a book that "young children will enjoy," and also one that "teachers will find useful."
Suzuki serves up more nature activities in You Are the Earth: From Dinosaur Breath to Pizza and Eco-Fun: Great Projects, Experiments, and Games for a Greener Earth, both written with Kathy Vanderlinden. You Are the Earth presents a "reminder that we are part of a greater whole," according to John Peters in School Library Journal. Suzuki provides a chapter each for the essentials of life: water, soil, energy, air, love, and a sense of "spiritual connection" with a larger universe, as Peters noted. Included with these chapters are review questions and ten activities middle grade children can do to enhance their eco-awareness. With Eco-Fun the authors gather together forty-eight different types of ecological activities "with a holistic view," as Booklist reviewer Gillian Engberg noted. These activities range from making environment-friendly cleaning agents to constructing a worm bin and a solar water heater. Patricia Ann Owens, writing in School Library Journal, felt that these projects were designed "to stimulate understanding, knowledge, and appreciation of our ecosystem."
In his long and prolific career Suzuki has managed to overcome personal setbacks to create a unique voice in the world of science and environmental awareness. In his children's books, just as in his adult nonfiction works and his broadcasting work, he has provided a lively and impassioned introduction to a world of scientific knowledge that many would otherwise find daunting.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Children's Literature Review, Volume 74, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Suzuki, David T., Metamorphosis: Stages in a Life, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1987.
American Biology Teacher, March, 2001, Jim Wandersee, review of You Are the Earth, p. 221.
Booklist, November 15, 1987, p. 577; February 15, 1990, p. 1175; June 1, 2001, Gillian Engberg, review of Eco-Fun: Great Experiments, Projects, and Games for a Greener Earth, p. 1876.
Books in Canada, December, 1987, B. K. Adams, review of Metamorphosis: Stages in a Life, p. 35; November, 1993, Janet McNaughton, review of Nature in the Home, p. 58.
Canadian Materials, January, 1988, Kenneth Elliott, review of David Suzuki Talks about AIDS, p. 21, Eve Williams, review of Looking at the Body, p. 25; May, 1988, Ronald Jobe, review of David Suzuki Talks about AIDS, p. 76; September, 1989, Fred Leicester, review of Looking at the Environment, p. 215.
Canadian Children's Literature, Volume 46, 1987, p. 110; Volume 47, 1987, Donn Kushner, review of Looking at Plants and Looking at Insects, pp. 61-62; Volume 50, 1988, Ronald Melzack, review of Looking at Senses and Looking at the Body; Volume 62, 1991, Donn Kushner, review of Looking at Insects, p. 105.
Maclean's, July 13, 1987, Pamela Young, review of Looking at Senses and Looking at the Body, pp. 50-51; April 3, 1995, Peter C. Newman, "Welcome to the World of Suzuki Economics," p. 42.
Quill and Quire, December, 1985, Bob Marquis, review of Looking at Plants, p. 25; June, 1986, Emily Hearn, review of Looking at Insects, p. 30; October, 1993, Mary Beaty, review of Nature in the Home, pp. 42-43; January, 1995, Theo Hersh, review of If We Could See the Air, p. 42; November, 1995, Fred Boer, review of The Backyard Time Detectives, p. 46.
School Library Journal, May, 1992, Elaine Fort Weischedel, review of Looking at the Body, Looking at Senses, and Looking at Weather, pp. 128-129; April, 2000, John Peters, review of You Are the Earth, p. 155; August, 2001, Patricia Ann Owens, review of Eco-Fun, p. 205.
Science Books and Films, August, 1992, Lyle E. Craker, review of Looking at Plants, Looking at Insects, and Looking at the Environment, p. 178.*