JUNE ALMEIDA, VIRUS DETECTIVE! The Woman Who Discovered the First Human Coronavirus (+GIVEAWAY)

One year ago, everything seemed to change overnight. Suddenly we were hunting down toilet paper, sewing masks, learning to Zoom, and doing “drive by” birthday parties — all because of a microscopic particle called coronavirus.

The Covid-19 pandemic also shined a light on a brilliant scientist named June Almeida. Most people haven’t heard of her because history books often overlook women, particularly those in STEM fields.

Since it’s Women’s History Month, March is the perfect time to introduce readers to June Almeida — the woman who discovered the first human coronavirus. That’s right, a woman make this groundbreaking discovery. Back in 1964! (I though coronaviruses were brand-new when I first heard of them last year.)

June Almeida working on an electron microscope

On April 17, 2020 I stumbled upon a National Geographic article about June. Her work was so amazing I immediately set aside my other “works-in-progress” to start researching June.

I began by looking for primary sources. I learned June had one child, a daughter named Joyce Almeida. Joyce lived in England and she had little internet presence. So I contacted an organization that had recently worked with Joyce and they forwarded an email to her.

Joyce and her mother, June Almeida

Joyce responded the next day, and after hearing about the project, kindly sent photos of June at work, science papers she’d written, an official CV, and more. Over time, Joyce and I developed a friendship. She answered questions about her mother’s invaluable work, and shared details about her personality, interests, and hobbies.

It didn’t take long to find a publisher who was as excited as I was about June’s amazing story. Sleeping Bear Press and the incredible illustrator, Elisa Paganelli, moved mountains to get the book out by March 15, only eleven months after I first learned about June. (Fyi – creating a book in less than a year is a whole other blog post!)

I’m thrilled to share June’s inspiring story in my new book:


Growing up, June’s favorite subject was science. She also enjoyed photography and spent a great deal of time taking wonderful pictures. (A skill that would come in handy later!) June planned to continue studying science in college, but her hard-working family couldn’t afford it.

But that didn’t stop June from pursuing her passion in science! After high school she landed a job working in a lab at a local hospital.

From there, she continued working and learning, and had a remarkable career as a virologist that spanned nearly 40 years. Due to her great skill on the electron microscope, she was able to create sharp, detailed photos of coronaviruses. She also conducted important research on viruses such as rubella, hepatitis B, and HIV.

Her pioneering research is helping scientists fight Covid-19 today!

Coronavirus image June created

JUNE ALMEIDA, VIRUS DETECTIVE! shares how June found the first human coronavirus and helped select its name, “coronavirus”. Readers will also discover that June faced many obstacles as she pursued her interest in science, but she persevered, and her invaluable work has helped improve the lives of people around the world.

Here’s the book trailer if you’d like a peek –

I hope June’s story inspires readers to go after their dreams too!

Learn more about June Almeida:

Washington Post article about June Almeida (by me)

Author Interview with 13 Reads

* * * * * * * * GIVEAWAY! * * * * * * * *

Please leave a comment to enter to win your own copy of JUNE ALMEIDA, VIRUS DETECTIVE!

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at: www.suzanneslade.com


  1. What a fascinating book and woman. Thank you for bringing her into the light.

  2. This is COOL beyond COOL. I’d love to win this book and share with with my grandkids.

  3. This is a great story to recognize important women. Congratulations!

  4. If the book trailer is any indication, this looks like an amazing book. I hope we also get to read the story about how a picture book can be published in less than a year. 🙂

    • I agree, Mary! That’s a story I’d like to hear/read too!

      • The key was finding a publisher who was extremely interested in getting this timely story out quickly, and an extremely talented and fast illustrator who was ready to dig into research and could convey science content well. I’m so grateful to Sleeping Bear Press and Elisa Paganelli for making this possible!

    • Thanks for your kind note Mary. The short story of publishing a book in less than a year is working long days, 6 days a week. But it was worth it!

  5. Carole Calladine

    What a wonderful, timely story. Thanks for capturing this important work to share with kids!

  6. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    Wow! I am SO, SO glad you were able to get this book written and published in a year’s time! I can’t fathom the breakneck speed Elisa Paginelli had to do the illustrations but what a gift to the world this book will be. I can’t wait to read it.

  7. What an amazing story and woman. I can’t wait to read the book! Congratulations, Suzanne!

  8. Suzanne, you and Elisa are AMAZING!!! And how wonderful of you to shine a light on June and her work. Congratulations!!! I will enjoy reading her story.

  9. Danielle Hammelef

    I also thought this virus was a relatively new thing last year. The research done for this book is inspiring as is the subject. I can’t wait to read and learn more.

  10. This book looks amazing! Love the art style too, hope I can win a copy for my twins, I know my daughter especially would love the science aspect of it!

  11. How cool…thanks for sharing!

  12. Jilanne F Hoffmann

    I’m looking forward to reading this book! Talk about an aggressive timeline! It’s impressive that you got it all done and lived to tell about it.

  13. Women of science always make great books! Thanks!

  14. I look forward to reading it to my students!

  15. What a timely and wonderful book. I’m looking forward to reading and sharing it.

  16. I can’t wait for kids at my school to learn about June! Young scientists will be so empowered by her story. So happy to welcome this book in record breaking the!

  17. I can’t wait for kids at my school to learn about June! Young scientists will be so empowered by her story. So happy to welcome this book in record breaking time!

  18. Who knew? Well, now we all do! Thank you for this important book and the sneak peek into what it took to create it.

  19. This is fascinating, Suzanne. Congratulations and I look forward to learning more about how in the world you managed to pull this off on such a tight timeline.

  20. Can’t wait to read this book! My daughters (and son) will love it.

  21. Judith Wright Aplin

    This book couldn’t have come at a better time!! This topic is on EVERYBODY”s mind and it’s also published during Women’s’ History Month – how perfect! We need to celebrate the perseverance and career of June Almeida .

  22. So many feels on so many levels!!! So timely and relevant today but also puts women in the STEM spotlight even before STEM was a “thing”!! Bravo and congratulations!

  23. Fascinating! Congrats, Suzanne!!

  24. How great that this story has come to light!

  25. What a fantastic story!! Or stories! Both June’s and the making of this book in under a year. Congratulations!

  26. I’m impressed! What a timely book!

  27. Looking forward to reading this book. I agree that it’s so timely and important.

  28. Such an amazing story about a brilliant woman, June Almeida.

    Additionally, how amazing that the story made its debut in such a short period of time.

    Thank you, Suzanne.

  29. Such a strong female role model. Thanks for sharing.

  30. This looks fascinating!

  31. Wow, a PICTURE BOOK in less than a year not created by an author-illustrator! I know that is one great story, Suzanne. I look forward to reading about June!

  32. Looks like another interesting story, Suzanne! Your work is incredible!

  33. I’d love to share this with my science-loving daughter!!

  34. A very interesting story and so relevant to what the world is living right now. Thank you!

  35. Wow, what a fabulous and inspiring book! Thank you so very much for sharing. So timely!

  36. This books sounds wonderful! Kuddos to you for searching to locate June’s daughter. You followed your passion and we now have an important book out in the world. Congrats!

  37. My eight-year-old granddaughter is very interested in science and COVID 19 has up ended her life as she has a heart defect that makes her especiallly vulnerable to the virus. She cannot go back to school while most of her peers already have. I’d love to give a copy of this book to her.

  38. Wow, that is pretty amazing! Cool topic! Congratulations!

  39. Sounds like a great read!

  40. This book looks so interesting that I checked my county-wide library system to see if they own it. They do not. In order to rectify this oversight, I used the “Suggest a Purchase” button to request that it be purchased for their collection. The next day I received a response to my email saying that the title would, indeed, be purchased and I will have the first opportunity to sign it out. Yay!

  41. What a timely topic of inquiry on yet another unknown person, a woman no less! Inspiring and interesting, this title fits perfectly with so many of your other wonderful narrative nonfiction books. I know for a fact kids enjoy learning about these incredible people from a great writer – you!!

    Best of luck with this one!! Can’t wait! My niece is a trained epidemiologist (Hopkins), running the regional health department in Houston. Going to share this info with her!

  42. Another strong, intelligent woman making her mark!

  43. Pingback: MARS IS: Stark Slopes, Silvery Snow, and Startling Surprises (+ Mars Freebies!)

  44. June Almeida’s story was so inspiring, and I truly loved digging deep into the places where she lived, her papers and technology she used. I’m grateful I’ve had the chance to illustrate this book about this wonderful scientist and greative woman.

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