Kirkus Reviews - June Almeida, Virus Detective!: The Woman Who Discovered the First Human Coronavirus
Profiles a virologist who was among the first to photograph and identify the coronavirus family.
Almeida’s own family has a significant presence in this account of her career and discoveries. Slade begins with her Glasgow-born subject’s early love of science and the death of her little brother, continues through marriage, divorce, and single parenting to track her growing reputation for expertise in microphotography and electron microscopy, then highlights the watershed human coronavirus paper she co-authored in 1967. A specific description of how she used “negative staining” to prepare her coronavirus specimens adds a laudatory glimpse of technical detail to the plain-language explanations of her discoveries. Incorporating memories and material supplied by the researcher’s daughter, the author of A Computer Called Katherine (illustrated by Veronica Miller Jameson, 2019) presents another underrecognized woman scientist as a role model. In this case, Almeida is not seen as a crusader breaking down barriers of race (she was White) and sexism but more generally as a smart, hard worker doing her best in both private and professional lives. If her character remains hard to pin down, a bit of verse preceding the expansive afterword (“Virus, Virus, shining bright / In the phosphotungstic night”) hints at a sense of humor. Single scientists of color in two group scenes are the only non-White figures in Paganelli’s clean, precisely drawn cartoon illustrations.
This indisputably timely book makes a solid case for greater recognition.