"When Carl Zimmer asked on his blog whether tattoos were common among scientists, he unwittingly became the curator of a set of incredible images, and of intimate stories that reveal a love affair with science. We are familiar with the idea that people tattoo themselves with a name or symbol representing the great love in their life. Those who love science are no different. Zimmer was inundated with responses.
"Many are literal representations of a scientist's obsession with their profession: a tree of life covering a zoology graduate's back, or a cross section through a mountain chain for a geology student. Others tell more personal stories, such as the neuroscientist with a tattoo of the type of nerve cell that is damaged in Lou Gehrig's disease, which killed her father. This book gathers up the marvels of science that have touched people so deeply they wanted to embody them. Zimmer's explanations of these concepts turns what could have been a gimmicky coffee-table picture book into an informative guide to some of the most captivating ideas in science."
"Watch out: This is the kind of book that might give readers some wild ideas. It's also the kind of subject that makes other science writers wish they had thought of it first."
One of the most eye-catching tomes to come out recently is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed, by Carl Zimmer . Using the body art as a jumping-off point, Zimmer eloquently relates the meanings behind tattoos that depict symbols and equations from fields such as maths, biology, astronomy, neuroscience and physics.
This is not your typical coffee-table book. First, it's handy enough to sit on a shelf, thanks to its 7-by-10-inch size. But more importantly, it's not just an assemblage of 200 amazing tattoos inspired by scientific symbology. Zimmer tells the tale behind each tattoo ... and the science that inspired it. Think of it as a survey course on the cosmos, written on skin.
Usually the author of serious, meaty books about evolution and biology, Zimmer shows us his whimsical side in this coffee table book featuring gorgeous photographs of people who have science tattoos. This book is a nothing short of a love letter to science, and to the people who are so enchanted by it that they've marked their bodies with its symbols.
Science Ink is packed with fascinating stories. One of the most moving is Abigail's. A chemistry student, she sent in a photo of her tattoo — the word 'entropy' inked on her back. A few months later, her mother sent Zimmer a note saying that Abigail had died in a car accident and that she was getting her daughter's tattoo replicated on her own body. That blog post and the comments it generated became a memorial for Abigail, and eventually led to a posting by a woman whose mother had received Abigail's lungs after her death.We call tattoos permanent, but they last only as long as the body that wears them survives. Abigail's tattoo has a life beyond her own: the design now adorns the headstone marking her grave. And it is there in the pages of Science Ink — one of many signs of an enduring fervour for science, and a new chapter in the age-old history of body art.
Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review, October 10, 2011
Noting a colleague's DNA-inspired tattoo at a pool party, science writer Zimmer (A Planet of Viruses) wondered how widespread the phenomenon of the inked scientist was. He solicited pictures for his blog, "The Loom," and, inundated with photos and stories from scientists and laypeople alike, quickly became a curator of science-inspired body art. Mary Roach's foreword lays out why, given the passion with which so many approach their fields, it should be no surprise to encounter this worldwide tribe whose obsessed love for every far-flung corner of science's domain was marked permanently on their bodies. Divided into 13 sections, the book is filled with breathtaking color photos accompanied by grounding texts: Portuguese geneticist Dônovan Fereira Rodrigues, who got Isaac Newton's "shoulders of giants" quote inked on his back, tells the story behind the phrase; August Kekule's "discovery" of benzene's structure inspired Virginia pharmacology PhD. Jeffrey Ikeda; a tattoo of Nikola Tesla's visions of a wireless future lies on the arm of Abraham Orozco, the science director of a children's community center in L.A. Genetics, neuroscience, and evolution (Darwin gets his own section) form the book's modern cornerstones and the tattoos range from full back pieces and sleeves to little—often concealable—personal reminders. Encyclopedic in essence, Zimmer's coffee-table art book presents a wealth of material.