Joy Hakim: Finding the Stories in Science and History

New Formats

"Reading Science Stories," will be available by July 1. It's a book intended to teach nonfiction reading through narratives. So I hope language arts teachers, as well as science and history teachers, will look at it as a way to enhance their disciplines. The Common Core State Standards have cited A History of US as exemplary nonfiction for language arts. A History of US and Freedom are in digital format, you can download them onto your IPad, Chrome, or Kindle. The Story of Science will follow soon in ebook format from the Smithsonian. The three science books have been translated into Korean and Chinese, so if you want to hone your skills in those languages, you can do it. I'm now working on biology books, they'll be in multiple formats.

Embark on a Vivid Journey Through World History with a Focus on Science's Big Ideas in The Story of Science

Copublished by the Smithsonian and NSTA, three gorgeous books.
“I’m convinced, and I hope to convince you, that science is not just for scientists. In the twentieth century, we compartmentalized knowledge; in the information age, that doesn’t make sense. Today, you can be a hermit on a mountain peak and still have access to the world’s learning. For scholarship to be so available, so democratic, is unprecedented in world history. To use that opportunity well, we all need to be generalists first. And no field of knowledge is as basic or as creative as science. . . . that human quest to understand the universe underlies almost all other creativity. “ A Writer’s Reasons, from The Story of Science, Aristotle Leads the Way

A recent report from the National Science Board says, "The Nation that dramatically and boldly led the world into the age of technology is failing to provide its own children with the intellectual tools needed for the 21st century. . .There is no excuse for citizens in our technological society to say, 'I don't know anything about science.'"

In this 21st century, the most incredible era of science ever, scientific illiteracy is no longer acceptable. The 20th century was a golden age of physics, cosmology is now having a heyday, so are molecular and evolutionary biology. Anyone without basic knowledge of those sciences is missing the intellectual underpinnings of our time. What can we do? Reconsider the way we teach science, history, and reading, bringing them together through narrative nonfiction. Educators talk of multidiscipliniary. The Story of Science is intended to make it possible. These books and accompanying materials meet the requirements of the new science standards. They go farther; they make connections between subjects. So think world history, critical thinking, language arts, and science when you consider these books. Hakim's writing has been lauded as exemplary nonfiction in the Common Core State Standards.

Copublished by Smithsonian Books and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), The Story of Science attempts to present the ideas of the physical sciences in a narrative combining stories with coordinated "hands on" experiments and activities (found in the teaching materials). The beautifully designed books begin with Thales, way back in ancient Greece, sojourn with Galileo, Kepler and Newton, take on Maxwell and the electromagnetic revolution, then Einstein, Bohr, Feynman and the moderns, finally looking at today's theories of the cosmos. These books are written for young readers of all ages–readers who want to think and learn, which includes everyone I know.

Increasingly,educators are turning to "content" subjects, like history and science, to teach critical reading. A History of US and The Story of Science were written to teach analytical reading. Teaching materials that accompany the books focus on vocabulary and reading skills. Some schools, using the books, have shown a documented rise in reading scores.

The Story of Science goes edible!

The Story of Science graduation cake. Please read letter to the right.
Dear Ms. Hakim,

My name is Shreeda and I just graduated from high school about a week ago. I wanted to write to you to personally thank you for introducing me to the wonders of science, and specifically physics, through your books The Story of Science. My parents held a graduation party for me at home yesterday and surprised me with a beautiful cake featuring the cover of your book, which I read 4 years ago. I have attached pictures of it; everything pictured is edible.

This fall, I will be a freshman at Rutgers University New Brunswick, as part of their honors program. I aspire to be a physicist. Your book is defining my life.

Thank you,
(Shreeda has given permission to use her letter and photos. I wish her great luck in college!)

Shreeda cutting into The Story of Science graduation cake!


California students absorbed in science in Mr. Bentley's 5th grade class! Read Mr. Bentley's letter below.

Students excited about their copies of The Story of Science

The Story of Science helping students engage in learning

Dear Joy Hakim,
These books are exactly what is needed to promote deep learning and thinking about science AND ancient civilizations and their relevance in our world today! In chapter 30 at the end of "Aristotle Leads the Way," author Joy Hakim states: "There is something I want to be sure you understand before you close this book. It's this: Science is not about certainty; it's about uncertainty: Does that sound weird? Well, it's true. Science is all about trying ideas, discarding those that don't work, and building on those that do. It never stops." She goes on to point out how scientifically minded people at various points in history have "proved" the Earth was flat or at the center of the universe and then cautions students that when a person believes "an absolute truth, you can just memorize it and get on with your life," since "there's nothing to discuss." This is one of the biggest ills plaguing education: resources and strategies that "impart" information to kids without requiring them to critically think, question, react to, and transform the information being studied. These texts and the teaching materials created by the Johns Hopkins University are the remedy to this problem.

Again, thank you SO MUCH for helping me provide my students the learning opportunities they deserve! Your assistance has transformed the lives of each of my students in ways that are impossible to measure.

With gratitude, 
Mr. B


On a recent school visit a teacher told me her students couldn't believe this was a schoolbook. "They love it," she said.
In the first book, readers travel back in time to ancient Babylon, Egypt, Greece, India, and the Arab world. They will explore the lives and ideas of people like Pythagoras, Archimedes, Brahmagupta, Al Khwarizmi, Fibonacci, Ptolemy, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas. The ancients, especially Aristotle and some of his Greek peers, asked the questions that would eventually lead to modern science. They often got the wrong answers, but that question-asking was essential. Read this book and you'll understand why.

This book is being used as a text in ancient history courses.

In this book, readers watch as Copernicus's systematic observations place the sun at the center of our universe-to the dismay of establishment thinkers. After readers follow the achievements and frustrations of Galileo, Kepler, and Descartes, they will appreciate the amazing Isaac Newton, whose discoveries about gravity, motion, colors, calculus, and Earth's place in the universe set the stage for modern physics, astronomy, mathematics, and chemistry.

What happened when Europe's massive forests got cut down so farmers could use the amazing plow? Read this book and find out. Lots of medieval and early modern history in this volume.

In this book, readers will look over Albert Einstein's shoulder as he and his colleagues develop a new kind of physics. It leads in two directions: to knowledge of the vast universe and its future (insights build on Einstein's theories of relativity), and to an understanding of the astonishingly small subatomic world (the realm of quantum physics). Students will learn why relativity and quantum theory revolutionized our world and led directly to the explosion of technology we all enjoy. Those two disciplines provide what are perhaps the most important ideas in modern science, maybe of all time. For information on the wonderful teachers ebook written by Juliana Texley to accompany this book go to:

War, peace, the amazing post-war growth of the western world, followed by a worldwide surge brought about by discoveries in science and technology.


"Hakim emphasizes the importance of mathematics to scientific progress and is not afraid to sprinkle a few numbers through the text, showing, for example, how the concept of zero transformed math into a tool for understanding practically everything...The Story of Science is richly informative and illustrated...Hakim, who is also the author ofA History of Us, clearly appreciates science and the matchless might of a reasoning mind."
-Natalie Angier, The New York Times

"In this six book series, author Joy Hakim traces the evolution of scientific thought from ancient times to the present. With lively, character-driven narrative, Hakim highlights the curiosity of the world's greatest scientists, and encourages a similar spirit of inquiry in the readers. "
-The Science Teacher, November 2004


"In the interest of scientific education that is excellent as well as entertaining, The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way is a superb start to what promises to be a valuable series."
-Steve Ruskin, Rocky Mountain News

"In her new series of science books for middle-schoolers, Joy Hakim combines science, history, geography, culture, and art to tell the story o science in a way kids love. And don't be surprised if you learn a lot yourself."
-American Educator, Fall 2004

"Ms. Hakim is a fine story-teller who winks at readers and never talks down. Her audience may be wary of science, but children should delight in the foibles and bad luck of scientists past."
-Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles, The New York Times

"Don't make the mistake of thinking that these books are textbooks; these books are treasures."
-Kristi G, Rome, GA

"As a teacher and curriculum writer, I have to say that this is a superb book from many, many angles. Joy Hakim is warm, compassionate, and passionately interested in her subject and in making it attractive and accessible not only to younger readers but to adults as well. I should really say "subject(s)" because she weaves history, mythology, science, math, philosophy, and religion together in a way that was fascinating enough to keep this long-in-the-tooth reader fully engrossed throughout...I strongly recommend this book for any human from 13 to 103."
-Nowell Didear, Sheridan, OR

"I can't sing Hakim's praises enough—from her History of US series to The Story of Science, all three volumes so far. I've been an avid science fan my whole life, but not a hard science major, and I gasped all the way through these books..."
-S.K. Woods

From the student and teacher Quest Guides from Johns Hopkins: Mr Fibonacci's Numbers, Book 1, Chap 25

From the student and teacher Quest Guides from Johns Hopkins: Longitude and Latitude Plus Two Greek Mapmakers, Book 1, Chap 20

Student's Quest Guide for Joy Hakim's The Story of Science, Book 1, by The John Hopkins University Talent Development Program


Right now I'm immersed in biology, especially the story of how our knowledge of life has emerged. I seem to be writing two complementary books. One, the people tale, begins wtih Francis Bacon (a contemporary of William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I) and continues to Darwin and Mendel, on to the Fly Room at Columbia University (where much of genetics was worked out), on further to the discovery of DNA and the cracking of its code, arriving at today's world of epigenetics and horizontal gene transfer. (Yes, some genes are directly passed between organisms, not inherited from parent to child.)
The other book tells the life story itself, beginning with the formation of Earth and, within a billion years, the first microbial life. Before long you have fish, then dinosaurs, then us.

From Aristotle to Einstein, these books focus on world history and physical science.