A graduate with a passion for popularising science
launches a new book titled “Ici, la Terre”
Passionate about science in general and the Earth sciences in particular, our graduate Frédéric Bouchard (Ph.D. Earth sciences 2013, under the direction of Pierre Francus) is driven by the desire to make knowledge accessible to as many people as possible. He is also an advocate of atypical career paths, bridging the gap between academia and other worlds, and is interested in research in northern terrains.
As evidenced by his Career path, popularisation of science is a common thread in his career to date. The publication on 2 November of his new book, “Ici, la Terre. Dix aventures scientifiques qui ont changé notre image du monde” [This is Earth. Ten scientific adventures that have changed our image of the world] is a manifestation of this.
Tell us about your new book “Ici, la Terre.” Where did you get the idea? Why should we read it?
Even though the transfer of knowledge to the general public is not generally valued in the world of research, I have always been determined to do it and to include these activities and publications in my CV. Since it is the Quebec and Canadian taxpayers who fund my work, I feel I have to explain to people what I do and why it is important.
I have always been concerned with making knowledge accessible. When I was a student, I had a radio column where I would highlight little-known scientists and earth science topics. A few years ago, I also worked with some colleagues on a comic book about permafrost that was translated into several languages. This interest had several unexpected ramifications.
When I was in France, I had a research position with no teaching duties. It was a good time to develop a new popularisation project. I was told: why don't you write a book? In the natural sciences, it is not too common to publish books for the general public. Thinking back to my columns on CKRL radio in Quebec City, I said to myself that I had discovered and broadcast a lot of interesting stories, but radio is an ephemeral medium. I thought it would be interesting to leave a trace of these stories that deserve to be told.
So I pulled out my chronicles and continued my research on them. It was a top secret project for four years. I wrote a few lines from time to time. Then, a few years ago, I contacted a publishing house in Montreal to whom I sent a chapter as a sample, and they liked the style. For two years, we exchanged different chapters and comments, until two years ago, when they confirmed that there was enough material to make a book. I've been working hard to finish it. It's due to be launched on 2 November and I still can't believe it.
It's based on a desire to popularise science in general and Earth sciences in particular. There are ten chapters, ten stories inspired by my first love of geology, my field experience in Siberia, on plate tectonics, the exploration of the ocean floor, glaciation... It takes place from the 17th century to the 1960s. These ten adventures aim to introduce scientists and the social and political context of their time. The researchers are human, and therefore imperfect. Each one has his or her colours in competitive and collaborative relationships. The human aspect is rarely mentioned in the discoveries, so I wanted to make it known. The book is aimed at the general public and is written in a style that everyone can read, from our teenagers to our grandmothers. It is for everyone who has some interest in science in general and the Earth in particular.