Roy A(rthur) Gallant Essay - Critical Essays

Gallant, Roy A(rthur)


Roy A(rthur) Gallant 1924–

American young adult nonfiction writer, biographer, and editor.

In twenty-five years of writing Gallant has established a reputation among teachers and readers for clear and thorough scientific exposition. His first books, those of the Exploring series, reveal a bias toward subjects in astronomy, a life-long interest which has led to a teaching post at the American Museum-Hayden Planetarium. His scientific knowledge is wide-ranging, and recent works have covered such topics as the earth's climate, human speech, and systems of measurement. Occasionally critics have found the style of writing in his less technical works, such as Me and My Bones, to be excessively coy. However, most agree that he has made a substantial contribution to the popularization of natural science for a young adult audience. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 4.)

[Exploring the Moon is an] interesting account of lunar history and exploration by remote control [which] covers theories of origin and the various interpretations of lunar formations we can see through strong telescopes today. Two opposing theories of origin are George Darwin's which maintains that the moon was a big blob of lava that broke from the earth, and Von Weizsacker's, which holds that it is a collection of traveling space particles. This absorbing kind of controversy continues through the discussion of the formation of seas, craters, mountains and seas.

"Non-Fiction: 'Exploring the Moon'," in Virginia Kirkus' Service, Vol. 23, No. 18, September 15, 1955, p. 703.

Albert Monheit

[Exploring Mars] includes most current information and thought about the red planet…. [It is] in straightforward, uncomplicated language…. Simpler and less detailed than [Franklyn M.] Branley's "Mars" but more appealing to the average reader. Needs index…. Highly recommended.

Albert Monheit, "Science and Inventions: 'Exploring Mars'," in Junior Libraries, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the October, 1956 issue of Junior Libraries, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1956), Vol. 3, No. 2, October, 1956, p. 25.

[In Exploring the Universe, later published as The Nature of the Universe, Roy A. Gallant looks] at the whole of the universe as we know it, and efficiently relays basic information in a way that captures one's interest immediately.'… The real color and excitement lies in the text. Organized chronologically, it comments on the history of astronomical thought from the days when Egyptians used it for political purposes to the dawn of enlightenment with Copernicus and Galileo. Traditional but apt presentation brings the science up to the present, in which the most advanced and controversial theories are understandably discussed. These, along with profiles of our own planetary system, the stars and the other galaxies, blend to bring on the heady fascination and the more ultimate implications of the subject.

"Non-Fiction: 'Exploring the Universe'," in Virginia Kirkus' Service, Vol. XXIV, No. 21, November 1, 1956, p. 806.

H. H. Holmes

The purpose of "Exploring the Universe" and "Exploring Mars" seems to be to catch the eye of the picture-reading young, lure them first to examine the diagrams, then to turn to the text for further enlightenment. As always, we feel that if the author and publishers were sincerely eager to educate the picture-reading public they would take time to list "further reading" at least…. The information in ["Mars"] is better organized and, because the scope is limited, more satisfactory.

H. H. Holmes, "Introductions to the Stars and Mars," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), Vol. 33, No. 15, November 18, 1956, p. 34.

Robert K. Plumb

[In "Exploring the Weather"] Roy Gallant concisely presents the fundamentals of meteorology, the science of weather. He explains what makes weather good and bad: why it is difficult, because of little understood influences, to predict it accurately very far ahead, and suggests how exploration of the atmosphere and space will help in forecasting. This introduction for 10-to-14-year-olds is detailed enough to stimulate more than casual interest.

Robert K. Plumb, "Earth, Sea, and Stars," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1957 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 17, 1957, p. 6.

The sun, the traditions which surround it, the scientists who investigated it, in fact the entire body of knowledge surrounding earth's most important star, is the subject of this concise text…. Roy Gallant's explicit and fact-filled text make Exploring the Sun a welcome companion to his four previous books…. Not recommended for pure amusement, but an excellent supplement for class room work.

"Non-Fiction: 'Exploring the Sun'," in Virginia Kirkus' Service, Vol. XXVI, No. 12, June 15, 1958, p. 416.

Julius Schwartz

Science has grown through the experimentation and speculation of many men who from the dawn of history have searched sky and earth for the truth about the universe. They are the explorers in each of these attractive books ["Exploring the Planets," "Exploring the Sun," and "Exploring Chemistry"] which will appeal particularly to young people who have some knowledge of the subjects treated, and who are asking, "How were these discoveries made?"

In "Exploring the Planets," young astronomers will find essential facts about the members of the sun's family, and much more…. What is known is carefully distinguished by the author from what is speculative.

Somewhat more specialized is "Exploring the Sun."… There is a dramatic final section on "the day the sun goes out."

"Exploring Chemistry" tells how that science had its beginnings…. Fundamental principles of modern chemistry are then developed through the work of scientists such as Priestley, Lavoisier and Dalton.

These books, which provide both information and inspiration, merit a place on the teenager shelf.

Julius Schwartz, "Teen-Age: Science: Universal Quest," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1958 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 2, 1958, p. 16.

Isaac Asimov

[Exploring the Planets and Exploring Chemistry, the] latest of the author's Exploring series are, if anything, more informative [and] better organized … than the previous ones. In Exploring the Planets, each planet (including our Earth) is taken up singly and the latest information available on each is presented in a clear and forthright manner. The whole is preceded by an able description of the various theories of the formation of the Solar System. (p. 483)

In Exploring Chemistry, Gallant abandons astronomy for the first time in the series but maintains his high quality of presentation with enviable ease. Actually, this is Chemistry Past and Future, rather than Chemistry Present. The first two-thirds of the book tells the dramatic story of how our present knowledge of chemistry slowly developed through Greek speculation, alchemical groping, and the experimentation of the early chemists. The last third tells the even more dramatic story of how chemistry may serve to give the world's growing population new food, new water, and new minerals. (p. 484)

Isaac Asimov, "Science: 'Exploring Chemistry'," in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright, 1958, by the Horn Book, Inc., Boston), Vol. XXXIV, No. 6, December, 1958, pp. 483-84.

[Man's Reach into Space] discusses in … detail the various tests to which men have been subjected in order to guarantee their maximum safety under the trying atmosphere of outer space. The laboratories … resemble chambers of horror, yet out of the scientific ordeals experienced there comes the hope that in the near future man shall travel safely through as yet uncharted regions.

"Non-Fiction: 'Man's Reach into Space'," in Virginia Kirkus' Service, Vol. XXVII, No. 23, December 1, 1959, p. 880.

Isaac Asimov

Typical of the author's "Exploring" books, [Man's Reach into Space] is … well written and full of information…. It is longer than the others, and more unusual in that it deals with a new subject—the gaining of knowledge that will help us to send men safely out into space. What can the human body endure in the way of unearthly environments, sudden extreme decelerations, exposure to heat or to low air pressure, or just to endless boredom and enclosure? I have seen no discussion of the human side of space flight, written for any age level, that is as interesting and informative as this.

Isaac Asimov, "Early Spring Booklist: 'Man's Reach into Space'," in The...

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Bancroft W. Sitterly

[Roy A. Gallant is] a professional interpreter of science to nonscientists, a "science writer," and a good one…. [The ABC's of Astronomy] is for would-be amateur astronomers, and it combines a dictionary of the astronomical language and a handbook for those who desire firsthand acquaintance, by naked-eye observation or the use of a small telescope, with the heavens always spread out above us….

I find [this book] a bit disappointing. The writing is direct, simple, and clear…. As dictionary definitions go, these are pretty good, with a few exceptions ("centrifugal force" is one); the art of definition is a very difficult one, and it is much easier to find fault than to contrive a better...

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Henry W. Hubbard

Everything has its place though it is difficult to find one for ["The ABC's of Chemistry: An Illustrated Dictionary"]. It will be of only minimum help to those who have not yet had high-school chemistry, because it requires knowledge of specific terminology and language. And for those already studying chemistry, the book offers little extra dimension or freshness of approach to complement the course. The definitions read as though they came from a chemistry text, and this the public schools already provide free of charge. DDT, for example, is defined as "An insecticide made from coal tar." Billions of bugs have been silenced by DDT; it and the other chlorinated hydrocarbons have been loudly condemned for silencing the...

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Isaac Asimov

[The ABC's of Chemistry] contains the usual definitions that would be expected to be of help to anyone taking a first course in general science; it is clear, concise, and accurate. However, the most useful feature of the book is the numerous tables that are to be found through the body of the list of definitions and in the special section at the end. Under "hardness," for instance, is an excellent table of the hardness of minerals—a much better one, in fact, than is to be found in the usual textbook. The periodic table on pages 68 and 69 is an unusually clear and attractive one.

Isaac Asimov, "Views on Science Books," in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright © 1964,...

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Robert S. Tapply

An excellent overview of linguistic theory, [Man Must Speak: The Story of Language and How We Use It] presents some very accurate, current views of the subject. Just about anything school children of this age should know is enjoyably presented here. While there are several other books that do much the same thing,… Gallant's book is eminently more readable. The sections on playing with language and mass media are particularly good, as is the material on communication among animals.

Robert S. Tapply, "The Book Review: 'Man Must Speak: The Story of Language and How We Use It'," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal, (reprinted from the...

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Penelope M. Mitchell

Although the author begins this description of man's extraterrestrial exploration with a now-familiar account of Apollo II, [Man's Reach for the Stars] is one of the more fascinating and informative additions to the mushrooming number of space travel volumes. About one-third of it is taken from his Man's Reach into Space …; the rest is new. After five well-selected "case accounts" in the history of man's ventures above the earth, the discussion focuses on the major physiological and physical problems inherent in space travel, and presents detailed but highly readable descriptions of what is being done to meet and overcome these hazards. The final two chapters discuss planetary exploration and the...

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Rev. Francis R. Carmody, S.J.

[Man's Reach for the Stars] will be a delight to those who wish to learn more details about man's conquest of space. Roy Gallant gathers together in an interesting way some of the vast knowledge man has acquired about space in recent years. He offers an explanation of why man has traveled to the moon. The book is especially helpful in presenting some of the challenge of aerospace travel to both man's mind and body…. The book offers a fine chronicle of the progress in medicine and engineering that has made it possible for man to realize his goals in space.

Rev. Francis R. Carmody, S.J., "'Man's Reach for the Stars'," in Best Sellers (copyright 1971, by the...

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If the skull under the skin is not too fearful to examine for its beauty and meaning, this cleverly made book of brief text [Me and My Bones] … charts a high road to comparative anatomy and evolution. Engaging Cirsten Carle acts as the living counterpart of a child's skeleton in many close-ups and set positions. Other bones come on the scene, from cat and chimpanzee, horse and elephant…. Gallant goes pretty far toward cuteness in maintaining the lightheartedness such a memento mori seems to need. Apart from a few excesses … he has made a book of value and delight for fifth-graders and up.

Philip and Phylis Morrison, "Books About Science for the Younger...

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Harry C. Stubbs

I greeted [Man the Measurer] with glee, having based my eighth-grade general science course on the measuring concept for a good many years. Actually, the book turned out to have fewer laboratory ideas than I had hoped, though a fair number are to be found in the Things You Can Do sections at the end of each of the three major parts of the book. Any disappointment I might have felt was more than offset by the fine supply of historical and descriptive material. Perhaps one of the most useful parts of the book, to a pro-metric person like myself, is the frightening list of British-American weight and measure units at the end of the book, accompanied by the oh-so-straightforward metric ones. (pp. 71-2)


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Penelope M. Mitchell

Beginning with Democritus and the Greeks 2500 years ago, [Explorers of the Atom] treats the discovery of the atom, its components and behavior, and, most importantly, the results and significance of atomic research through the ages. Current and projected uses of atomic energy are discussed …, and a detailed description of the chain of radioactive contamination accumulation is especially helpful. Unfortunately, the final section on nuclear power sources and radioactive wastes will leave readers with the impression that all claims to their safety are false…. However, as a good companion to David Michelsohn's Atomic Energy for Human Needs (… 1973), this still provides an exceptionally clear...

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Debbie Robinson

Why has astrology gained in popularity and what does it offer are questions central to the author's extensive covering of his topic [in Astrology: Sense or Nonsense?]. Mr. Gallant begins with two conflicting schools of thought within astrology: astrological predictions can be proven by statistics; or astrology involves more than science, and the astrologer possesses secret knowledge. To document these thoughts the author traces astrology from its Babylonian beginnings and the creation of the Zodiac by the early Greeks through the historical, religious, scientific, and philosophical growth of Western civilization to the present. He explains how a horoscope is cast (using John F. Kennedy's birth and death...

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David E. Newton

Gallant's writing abilities are by this time well established, and [Astrology: Sense or Nonsense?] will do nothing to harm that reputation. He provides a thorough and a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to the complex subject of astrology. To my delight, he asks some penetrating questions about what it is that astrology can and cannot do. A fascinating book….

David E. Newton, "'Astrology: Sense or Nonsense?'" in Appraisal (copyright © 1975 by the Children's Science Book Review Committee), Vol. 8, No. 2, Spring, 1975, p. 20.

It's hard to know how to react to [How Life Began: Creation versus Evolution, a] purportedly...

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Shirley Roe

In this most interesting book [How Life Began: Creation versus Evolution] Gallant discusses the history of mankind's ideas about the origins of the universe and the creation of life, from the Babylonians to the present. The general theme is how mythical views of the universe have gradually and inexorably given way to science, as knowledge has increased throughout the years about the world and its inhabitants…. But Gallant does not hide the fact that his own prejudice is for the scientific view, which is constantly producing, according to his presentation, better and truer knowledge about the world. The same attitude is expressed in Gallant's chapters on evolution and opponents to it, where he states that he...

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Peter Arvedson

The recent increase in publicity on [the creation versus evolution question] has demonstrated again the need for a clear presentation of the merits and demerits of both sides. Roy Gallant gives such a presentation in How Life Began. He does not gloss over the gaps in the current evolutionary theory (such as missing links) nor does he ridicule the opinion of the creationists, although he supports the evolutionists. His account is precise, clear and concise…. This book would be very interesting to anyone concerned about this problem. It is written for all levels of readers; the language is nontechnical, but the discussion is not superficial. There are further references. At times, the author does not make clear...

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John Adams

Though Beyond Earth is only the most basic introduction to the quest for life in space, one quite suitable for junior high students and up, it is wonderfully clear and comprehensive.

The author first recounts humankind's earliest creation myths, from Babylonian times up through the time of the Copernican revolution. Then he methodically outlines basic concepts of physics, chemistry and biology that he relates not only to life on Earth, but also to his point that natural laws as we know them may dictate the whereabouts and form of life in space. Also, Gallant does a good job of recounting the current theories of the universe's origin, helping to link earlier material to the dimensions of the...

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Harry C. Stubbs

[Beyond Earth: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life] naturally interested me very much in view of my forty-odd years as a science fiction fan. It is good, these days, to see the question of extraterrestrial life being discussed soberly and seriously by competent scientists. Dr. Gallant is a little more conservative than I in setting criteria for the shapes and chemistries of possible life, but he does quote with apparent sympathy from some of the old classics of science fiction, such as Stanley Weinbaum's A Martian Odyssey … and E. E. Smith's Galactic Patrol…. He describes in detail some of the suggested techniques for communicating with beings from other worlds; and the various bases for...

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James L. Goatley

[Beyond Earth: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life] is written for people with no scientific background, and most should find it easy to follow. It is probably best suited to a juvenile audience, but it should be informative to anyone who has not previously been exposed to scientific inquiry into life elsewhere. Serious errors or misleading statements are relatively few and do not inhibit the flow of major ideas…. Also useful are an annotated bibliography and a glossary.

James L. Goatley, "'Beyond Earth: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life'," in Science Books & Films (copyright 1978 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science), Vol. XIV, No....

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Daphne Ann Hamilton

The author [of Fires in the Sky: The Birth and Death of Stars] investigates the characteristics and life cycle of stars by the time-honored technique of examining what we know about the nearest example, the Sun, and how we learned it, then applying that knowledge to distant stars. Unfortunately, the stellar characteristics are so compartmentalized that the effect is very jerky and awkward to read—an effect accentuated by the experiments provided for the reader. Alas for the hoped-for sense of involvement. The experiments themselves are often interesting and would provide some more advanced students with science fair projects; I did find the project on determining star distances to be rather confusingly...

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David G. Hoag

[Fires in the Sky: The Birth and Death of Stars] is excellent in some aspects and poor in others. It's excellent in its authoritative treatment of many of the astronomic phenomena: supernova, neutron stars, pulsars, black holes, etc. Its attempt to give the young reader some experiments to try in measuring some of the physical properties of the solar system is admirable. Its step-by-step use of arithmetic calculations to give a feeling of method of quantitative astronomy is very good. However, the author curiously converts the earth-sun distance to millimeters in calculating the sun's diameter from its subtended angle and then finally has to convert the result in millimeters back to kilometers. He argues...

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Harry C. Stubbs

Mr. Gallant's work [in Fires in the Sky: The Birth and Death of Stars] is historical in nature, and he goes deeply into the reasoning which connects observation with opinion. As a rule his statements are cautiously qualified, but occasionally he states as fact things which are still very dubious. Epsilon Aurigae's invisible companion may actually be, for example, an infrared giant star larger than the orbit of Saturn; but as long as ago as 1960 there were at least two other published explanations for the eclipse data, and I doubt very much that at this moment any astronomer would care to risk his reputation with a definite choice among these or even claim that one of them is probably right. A few errors appear...

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Zena Sutherland

Serious in tone and rather heavy in writing style, this examination of the factors that have affected and will affect terrestrial climate [Earth's Changing Climate] is thorough and objective, carefully distinguishing facts from theories…. A sober survey, a fascinating topic. A bibliography, a glossary, and an index are included; the maps, charts, and diagrams are useful and well-placed in relation to pertinent text.

Zena Sutherland, "New Titles for Children and Young People: 'Earth's Changing Climate'," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (© 1979 by the University of Chicago; all rights reserved), Vol. 33, No. 3, November, 1979, p. 47.


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Of the many books published recently on this subject, [Earth's Changing Climate] is by far the best. It is well organized and very clearly written; anecdotes, examples, diagrams and photographs help to make this a lively presentation…. This is aimed at the same age group as [Daniel] Cohen's What's Happening to our Weather?… and [Henry] Gilfond's The New Ice Age…. But of the three, this is the clearest and the most appealing. The text is smooth and easy to understand. Subjects are arranged in a logical progression, and different concepts are explained separately within a larger topic. Chapter and topic headings add to the book's clarity.


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David E. Newton

Gallant is one of the premier science writers of our time, and he has done a superb job [with Earth's Changing Climate]. As usual, he demonstrates a real mastery of nearly every possible aspect of the subject on which he has chosen to write. There is scarcely an aspect of climatology on which he does not appear to be knowledgeable. There are some small errors of fact …, but these are minor distractions from an otherwise admirable text. The reading level is fairly high, and the book is probably accessible only to junior high students of better-than-average reading abilities or to senior high students. I especially recommend the book to libraries….

David E. Newton,...

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Denise M. Wilms

[The Constellations: How They Came to Be] is best for dipping into rather than reading through at one sitting. Defining his scope as the northern circumpolar group—stars and constellations observable from the Northern Hemisphere—Gallant names the groups by season and explores the ways they came to be thought of as constellations—in particular the myths that lie behind many of them…. Gallant dismisses astrology forthrightly and makes a strong bid for rational thought. Here, though, he opposes rather simplistically the scientist's rational mind and the superstition of "an illiterate nomad in the depths of his jungle home." The book is a comprehensive background source on constellations, especially useful...

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Margaret L. Chatham

A welter of myths from all over the world is combined [in The Constellations: How They Came to Be] with guidance on what amateur astronomers should look for where with eye, binoculars, or small telescopes in 44 northern hemisphere constellations…. There is a wealth of information here; more myths than in [Peter] Limburg's What's in the Names of Stars and Constellations?… more approachable star guides that in [Donald Howard] Menzel's Field Guide to the Stars and Planets …; but it isn't always well digested. The text has choppy spots and there are some discrepancies between text and diagrams. Still, this is an appealing guide…. (pp. 130-31)

Margaret L....

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