Understanding the role of great scientists and how their insights changed knowledge can be a difficult task, but three Brazilian scientific disseminators made it their business to make this path much easier and more enjoyable.
The book “Science Superheroes: 52 Brazilians and Their Research”, published this week, presents a part of Brazilian science with scientists from the mid-19th century to show children and young people (and everyone else interested) that they are there a multitude of discoveries and important contributions. It can also be seen as bait to fall in love with all that science has to offer.
The authors are the biologist Ana Bonassa and the pharmacist-biochemist Laura Marise, both postdocs at USP and creators of the Never Saw 1 Scientist channel, which can be seen on YouTube and on social networks, and the pharmacist-biochemist Renan Araújo, who works with the Drug planning and research works founded the Via Saber dissemination group.
One of the trio’s goals was to make the book a source of inspiration and a guide for young people who want to make a living from research. For this reason, not only was it explained step by step in practice what the path of this path is, but it was also important to tell the story of scientists and non-whites. The only black person, however, is the doctor Juliano Moreira (1872-1933), a dermatologist and one of the forerunners of national psychiatry.
“I was concerned about the possibility that it might be another book where people would see white men triumph, which I really didn’t want,” says Laura Marise.
Of course, it is not intellectual capacity that explains the discrepancy, but rather an asymmetry in access to higher education that has persisted for a long time, says Renan de Araújo. “For us, the key is to show that science is for everyone and to humanize the scientist.”
From the engineer Carmen Portinho (1903-2001) to the biologist Mayana Zatz, probably the most famous geneticist in the country, the book collected a number of examples that can serve as reference for future scientists.
The formula for writing about people from such different fields has already been tested by the authors in their scientific dissemination projects in social networks. Form so it wasn’t that difficult to strike the balance between scientific precision and humor.
“It couldn’t be a catalog of scientists. The book has our face, that’s how we talk. People like jokes, memes, ”says Ana Bonassa. According to the biologist, in a context like ours, where the public even says they like science but can’t say the names of scientists, doing work can really make a big impact.
Writing certain profiles and detailing related research was a particular challenge for the authors, all of whom were from more biological backgrounds.
Examples of these cases are that of the physicist José Leite Lopes (1918-2016), a student of particle physics, and that of the mathematician Artur Avila, who won the Fields Medal and is considered the Nobel Prize in Mathematics. It was then necessary to turn to experts to make sure they weren’t making mistakes or talking nonsense, the authors say.
The process was so intense that there was even a sense of revolt along the way, reports Araújo, as in the case of Sérgio Henrique Ferreira (1934-2016). “He’s done fantastic research in the field, and due to a lack of investment and focus on technology development, Brazil has lost the chance of obtaining the billionaire patent for one of the most widely used drugs in the world, captopril.”
The three authors also made sure to create additional lists and include them in the book. One of them are scientists with philosophical and structural contributions to the scientific landscape of the country, such as the sociologist Florestan Fernandes (1920-1995) and the archaeologist Niède Guidon.
Another list is that of scientists at the peak of their careers or worth entering a possible second volume, such as astrophysicist Marcelle Soares-Santos and epidemiologist Paulo Lotufo. Candidates for a possible sequence will not be missing, since the original list for the work started had more than a hundred names and the exchange took place up to the last revisions before
The book also includes a list of scientific disseminators whose work is endorsed by the authors and a quick guide to scientific methodology, such as the importance of reviewing information sources and the pitfalls people are prone to fall into.
“You don’t have to be a scientist or have a career in science to use science in your life. We are able to show the principles – how to think scientifically – and apply them on a daily basis. It is important to create this critical thinking: to doubt, to question, to investigate, ”says Marise.