“A Brilliant Educator’s Life Cut Short,” L. Frankel

Posted on Jun 27, 2013

It’s appropriate that a biography of an innovator would not be the traditional sort of biography. Because the author is the father of the book’s central focus, its tone is more intimate and its coverage of her life has more depth than it might have had if someone who didn’t know her as well had written it. It also doesn’t follow the story of the life of Sreyashi Jhumki Basu chronologically. Some readers may find this confusing, but I decided early in my reading of this book that Dipak Basu must have reasons for presenting his daughter to us in the way that he did. By the time I finished it, I understood that the life of a unique individual like Jhumki could only be portrayed in a unique way.

When I received my copy of this book for review, I wondered how the life of a woman who died so young could be so long. I discovered that Jhumki packed a great many accomplishments into her brief life. It was also a very well documented life. Jhumki wrote long letters and kept a journal. She also published a number of articles dealing with her approach to science education. Dipak Basu and those who assisted him with this biography undoubtedly had to sift through a mountain of material.

As a member of Dr. Susan Love’s Army of Women which was founded to assist in breast cancer research, I was very interested in reading about Jhumki’s cancer treatment. Perhaps someday advances in instrumentation will allow physicians to identify cases of metastatic cancer sooner, so that tragedies like Jhumki’s don’t recur in future generations.

Cancer interrupted Jhumki’s lifework, but this book shows that Jhumki’s method for getting low income minority youth interested in science is effective. She emphasized that science can be fun. Yet mastery of any scientific field requires discipline. Are students who’ve been attracted to science by cool projects that are relevant to their lives going to be able to sustain that enthusiasm over the long haul so that they can pursue a scientific profession? It will be interesting to find out how many of these students do have successful careers as scientists. As an educator, Jhumki’s legacy is measured by the lives she has impacted.

Readers will be inspired by this book, but it also provides food for thought. I recommend it to people who are drawn to new ideas and want to explore them through the matrix of Jhumki’s original mind.