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.)
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 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:
JUNE ALMEIDA, VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS.
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!
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:
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