Book Review: Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed

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Title: Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed
Author: Carl Zimmer
Publisher: Sterling New York (November 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1-4027-8360-9 (hardcover)
978-1-4127-8938-1 (ebook)
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Genre: Science / Culture


My caveat to this review is that I have a passion for all things science and tattoos, but I’m not an expert in either.

I pre-ordered this book with reservations because there are many ”bad” tattoo books out here. And I thought how could these two co-exist together? Aren’t scientists sort of nerdy? Aren’t people who have tattoos super cool? However, I was knocked out when I received the book, you will see that both co-exist together very well. And lo and behold scientists are very cool or at least have very cool tattoos.

The book comes in a sturdy hard cover edition that has cut-outs on the front to reveal some of the science tattoos pictured in the book. This is a beautiful book that will last years on the coffee table or a favorite spot on your nightstand to explore again and again.

For the tattoo lovers there are plenty of beautiful and wildly different tattoos from the simple symbol of the null set, the intricate mathematical calculation of the set theory, to a rendition of outer space. If you are in need of ideas for a different kind of tattoo this is the book for you. Most of the tattoos are in color and for the most part the pictures are clear, although some of the tattoos are a bit fuzzy, but this could be a result of old and somewhat fading tattoos. There is also a Visual Index in the back of the book so that you can see thumbnails of all the tattoos along with corresponding page numbers so that you can locate the larger photo and read more information.

For the person who likes science there is a wealth of short and concise essays about the meaning of the tattoos pictured, why the person decided to get the particular ink and more background information about the particular science topic. This is really the heart and soul of the book—the passion behind the reason for getting a tattoo is often as interesting as or maybe even more interesting than the actual tattoo. One of the most intriguing pieces in the book (including a picture) is the copy of the oldest tattoo uncovered so far. The tattoo was on a man who was found in the Alps when the snow cover receded and exposed his body. It is the body of the man (nicknamed Otzi) who died 5400 years ago.

The information presented is just the right balance—enough science to whet your appetite, but not enough information to overwhelm most people especially if you are not particularly geared towards science.

As a person who has tattoos, I can identify with the authors regarding the meaning behind a person’s reason for getting a certain tattoo. It was refreshing to read about the passion and see the beauty of the tattoos. If I have any criticism of the book is that I wanted more….more pictures, more personal stories and at certain times more of the science behind what the tattoo represented.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in science and/or tattoos.


Alan Franciscus
Editor-in-Chief
HCSP Publications

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