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Bodanis, David

Bodanis, David

Personal

Born in Chicago, IL; married (divorced); children: two. Education: University of Chicago, B.S. (mathematics).

Addresses

Home—London, England. Agent—Lavin Agency, 222 3rd St., Ste. 1130, Cambridge, MA 02142. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Science writer, consultant, and teacher. International Herald Tribune, Paris, France, reporter, beginning 1977; freelance writer, beginning 1982; St. Antony's College, Oxford, Oxford, England, senior associate member, beginning 1990, and instructor in intellectual history, 1991-97; business consultant, beginning mid-1990s. Talent Foundation, London, England, strategy director. Speaker at major corporations and other organizations on global trends in science and research.

Writings

The Body Book: A Fantastic Voyage to the World Within, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1984.

The Secret House: Twenty-four Hours in the Strange and Unexpected World in Which We Spend Our Nights and Days, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1986.

Web of Words: The Ideas behind Politics, Macmillan (Basingstoke, Hampshire, England), 1988.

The Secret Garden: Dawn to Dusk in the Astonishing Hidden World of the Garden, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.

The Secret Family: Twenty-four Hours inside the Mysterious World of Our Minds and Bodies, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

(With others; and presenter) The Secret Family (television documentary), Discovery Channel/CBC, 1997.

E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity, Crown (New York, NY), 2005.

Passionate Minds: The Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment, Featuring the Scientist Emilie du Chatelet, the Poet Voltaire, Swordfights, Bookburnings, Assorted Kings, Crown (New York, NY), 2006, published as Passionate Minds: The Great Enlightenment Love Affair, Little, Brown (London, England), 2006.

Contributor of reviews, essays, and articles to London Guardian, London Times, Reader's Digest, New Scientist, Times Literary Supplement, Smithsonian, and London Observer.

Adaptations

E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation was adapted as the television program Einstein's Big Idea, Public Broadcasting Service, 2005; it was also adapted as an audiobook.

Sidelights

An academic, mathematician, and author, David Bodanis specializes in writing books that explain the remarkable science behind everyday life. He has written about the human mind and body, the working of nature to be observed in a household garden, the science involved in Albert Einstein's famous equation E=mc2, the story behind the discovery and development of electricity, and even the love affair of an Enlightenment philosopher and his female-scientist contemporary. As a reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted, "those who don't generally read science will find that Bodanis is a first-rate popularizer." A writer for the Economist found that "his breezy, often poetic prose makes even the most complex subjects seem accessible to non-specialist readers."

Bodanis was born in Chicago, Illinois. "I grew up the last in a big family—five big sisters," he explained to Michael Alec Rose in an interview for BookPage online. After graduating from the University of Chicago with a degree in mathematics, he moved to Europe, and worked in Paris as a reporter for the International Herald Tribune. Eventually setting down roots in London, England, in 1990 Bodanis was named a senior associate member of St. Antony's College, Oxford. As an advisor to corporations and other organizations, Bodanis now helps groups predict future trends in technology by envisioning the business world of tomorrow.

Bodanis debuted as an author with The Body Book: A Fantastic Voyage to the World Within, which S.E. Gunstream described in Choice as "an imaginative description of the physiological processes involved in certain emotions, activities, and states commonly experienced." Carol Krucoff, reviewing the work in the Washington Post Book World, claimed that "Bodanis packs the book with remarkable physical trivia," while Carla La Croix wrote in Library Journal that the author "writes in a clear, lively, nontechnical style" that "includes cultural and historical references."

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The book responsible for launching Bodanis's career as a science writer is The Secret House: Twenty-four Hours in the Strange and Unexpected World in Which We Spend Our Nights and Days. Using microphotography, the book focuses on the "hidden world" within the typical home, a world that includes dust mites, water vapor, and the vibrations in the very floorboards upon which we walk. As Appraisal reviewer Lavinia C. Demos explained, in the book "Bodanis has highlighted a world that escapes observation," while a People contributor dubbed The Secret House "a bug-eyed look at the squiggly, squirmy life-forms that go unseen in the ordinary home."

Again employing photomicrographics, The Secret Garden: Dawn to Dusk in the Astonishing Hidden World of the Garden focuses on the family garden. David W. Kramer, writing in Science Books and Films, noted of the work that Bodanis "skillfully infuses the facts with a dynamic tension that adds excitement to the interactions among plants, soil, fungi, insects, and people," his focus ranging from flowerpots to lawns.

In The Secret Family: Twenty-four Hours inside the Mysterious Worlds of Our Minds and Bodies Bodanis follows a typical family of five throughout the course of a normal day, from breakfast to late at night. He focuses on the silent interactions between family members on a hormonal level, on conversational styles and what they mean, and on the body language Westernized people unconsciously use to express themselves. Along the way, he details such things as the microscopic contents of the foods the family eats and the activities of the dust mites that live on their skin. A.M. Daniels, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, described the book as a "cheerful, discursive and highly amusing account of a typical middle-class American family's Saturday." In her Booklist review, Donna Seaman called The Secret Family "readable, informative, and lively," and Mark L. Shelton wrote in the Library Journal that "this is the sort of book that turns grade schoolers into science lovers." Reflecting Shelton's assessment, a Kirkus Reviews contributor deemed The Secret Family as "the perfect gift for a science-minded teenager."

In his book E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation, Bodanis tells the story of the famous equation "in the manner of a conventional biography," according to Spectator critic Steve King, "with chapters on the equation's ‘ancestors, childhood, adolescence and adulthood.’" Bodanis patiently explains each part of Einstein's famous equation, beginning with "E" for energy, then moving on to the equal sign, the "m" that stands for "mass," and so on. In this manner, he explains the contributions of earlier scientists to Einstein's formulation of the equation. Energy, for example, leads back to Michael Faraday, the eighteenth-century scientist who first realized that electricity and magnetism are the same force. A reviewer for Astronomy wrote that, in his book, Bodanis "brings to life a mathematical formula that enjoys a ubiquitous presence in our daily lives," and School Library Journal critic Barbara A. Genco described E=mc2 as "engaging, accessible, and filled with vividly drawn characters."

In Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity Bodanis traces the history of how electricity was discovered and developed into the essential force of modern technology. Beginning with the early-nineteenth-century scientists who experimented with electricity, Bodanis tells the stories of such famous figures as Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Guglielmo Marconi, as well as of lesser-known but also important figures like Heinrich Herz and Alan Turing. Praising the book as a "superb popular science tale," Edna Boardman wrote in Kliatt that the author mixes scientific fact "with intriguing biographical sketches of the major historic personalities who figured in [electricity's] … discovery and development." The many inventions dependent on electricity, and how these inventions have changed the world, are also detailed, as are the ways electricity is used in the human body's nervous system. A reviewer for Science News concluded of Electric Universe that "Bodanis has written a science book that will appeal to people who usually don't like reading about science," and an Economist contributor

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maintained that the author's "breezy, often poetic prose makes even the most complex subjects seem accessible to non-specialist readers." Gilbert Taylor, in his review of the book for Booklist, dubbed Electric Universe a "hip history of electricity."

Speaking to Rose about the satisfaction he gains from writing about science for a general readership, Bodanis explained in his BookPage online interview: "I've really enjoyed in the past when people have made stories or insights clear for me, and so it's a great pleasure to work to make things equally clear for others."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Appraisal, summer, 1987, Lavinia C. Demos, review of The Secret House: Twenty-four Hours in the Strange and Unexpected World in Which We Spend Our Nights and Days, p. 21.

Astronomy, January, 2001, review of E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation, p. 112.

Booklist, August, 1997, Donna Seaman, review of The Secret Family: Twenty-four Hours inside the Mysterious World of Our Minds and Bodies, p. 1864; August, 2000, Gilbert Taylor, review of E=mc2, p. 2088; August, 2000, Gilbert Taylor, review of E=mc2, p. 209; January 1, 2002, review of The Secret House, p. 979; February 1, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of Electric Universe, p. 925.

Chicago Sun-Times, November 27, 2000, Mike Thomas, interview with Bodanis.

Chicago Tribune, March 16, 2005, Patrick T. Reardon, review of Electric Universe.

Choice, December, 1984, S.E. Gunstream, review of The Body Book: A Fantastic Voyage to the World Within, p. 580; April, 2001, M. Mounts, review of E=mc2, p. 1495; December, 2005, M. Schaab, review of Electric Universe, p. 698.

Contemporary Review, May, 2005, review of Electric Universe, p. 319.

Daily Mail (London, England), February 11, 2005, Peter Forbes, review of Electric Universe, p. 72.

Discover, February, 1998, Sarah Richardson, review of The Secret Family, p. 88; October, 2000, Eric Powell, review of E=mc2, p. 104.

Economist, February 12, 2005, review of Electric Universe, p. 83.

Encounter, March, 1989, review of Web of Words: The Ideas behind Politics, p. 55.

Engineer, March 29, 2005, review of Electric Universe, p. 20.

Entertainment Weekly, August 22, 1997, Alexandra Jacobs, review of The Secret Garden, p. 128; February 25, 2005, Wook Kim, review of Electric Universe, p. 105.

Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), November 25, 2000, review of E=mc2, p. D28.

Guardian (London, England), January 15, 2005, Pedro G. Ferreira, review of Electric Universe, p. 10.

Independent Sunday (London, England), January 29, 2006, Laurence Phelan, review of Electric Universe, p. 30.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1997, review of The Secret Family, p. 922; January 15, 2005, review of Electric Universe, p. 94.

Kliatt, July, 2005, Edna Boardman, review of Electric Universe, p. 61.

Library Journal, September 15, 1984, Carla La Croix, review of The Body Book, p. 1764; July, 1997, Mark L. Shelton, review of The Secret Family, p. 118; November 1, 2000, James Olson, review of E=mc2, p. 124; January, 2001, review of E=mc2, p. 52; March 1, 2001, review of E=mc2, p. 48; December 1, 2004, Ian Gordon, review of Electric Universe, p. 154; September 1, 2005, review of Electric Universe, p. 192.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 26, 1993, Charles Solomon, review of The Secret Garden: Dawn to Dusk in the Astonishing Hidden World of the Garden, p. 11.

New Scientist, March 4, 1989, Roy Herbert, review of The Secret House, p. 60.

New Statesman and Society, February 3, 1989, Alan Brien, "Word Hunting," p. 45.

Observer (London, England), March 6, 2005, Mark Townsend, review of Electric Universe, p. 16; January 22, 2006, Oliver Robinson, review of Electric Universe, p. 29.

People, April 20, 1987, "They Say a Man's Home Is His Castle, but David Bodanis' Secret House Reveals the Creepy Truth," p. 133.

Publishers Weekly, June 8, 1984, review of The Body Book, p. 59; September 18, 2000, review of E=mc2, p. 98; December 6, 2004, review of Electric Universe, p. 50; April 4, 2005, review of Electric Universe, p. 22.

School Library Journal, December, 2000, Barbara A. Genco, review of E=mc2, p. 63.

Science Books and Films, March, 1993, David W. Kramer, review of The Secret Garden, p. 46; July, 2002, review of E=mc2, p. 450; November, 2002, review of E=mc2, p. 538; May-June, 2005, Parrish A. Staples, review of Electric Universe, p. 101.

Science News, April 16, 2005, review of Electric Universe, p. 255.

Spectator, November 4, 2000, Steve King, review of E=mc2, p. 53.

Sunday Times (London, England), March 6, 2005, William Peakin, review of E=mc2, p. 6.

Times Educational Supplement, November 10, 2000, review of E=mc2, p. 23; February 11, 2005, review of Electric Universe, pp. B18-B19.

Times Literary Supplement, January 30, 1998, A.M. Daniels, "The Last Explorers," p. 36.

U.S. News & World Report, December 18, 2000, Jay Tolson, review of E=mc2, p. 54.

Washington Post Book World, December 2, 1984, Carol Kurcoff, review of The Body Book, p. 14.

ONLINE

BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (March, 2005), Michael Alec Rose, interview with Bodanis.

CollegeClub.com,http://www.collegeclub.com/ (September 13, 2001), "David Bodanis."

David Bodanis Home Page,http://www.davidbodanis.com (June 20, 2007).

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