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Nobel Laureate Martin Karplus was eight when his family fled Nazi-occupied Austria via Switzerland and France for the United States. He would later credit his life as a refugee as a decisive influence on his world view and approach to science.
Spinach on the Ceiling is an autobiographical telling of Karplus’ life story, and how it led him to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2013. The book captures pivotal moments in Martin’s life—from his escape to Switzerland in 1938 shortly after Hitler’s entrance into Austria; to memorable moments like when his parents gave him a microscope which opened his eyes to the wonders of science; to his education in New England and California; and his eventual scientific career which took him to England, Illinois, Columbia, Strasbourg, and Harvard. It relates how Martin’s optimistic outlook and belief in his vision made it possible for him to overcome setbacks in his life, and turn a subject of study his colleagues considered a waste of time into a central part of chemistry and structural biology.
It is his hope to inspire and aid young readers, in particular, to have a successful trajectory in their own lives. Although research and teaching have been his primary focus, he has traveled the world photographing people and places with a Leica IIIC and has had numerous exhibitions of the photographs. He has also enjoyed a lifelong interest in cooking and worked in some of the best restaurants in France and Spain.