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THE ORIGIN OF MIRIAM BAT ISAAC: A story in the Living and Being section of the Poughkeepsie Journal,


June Trop Zuckerman’s retirement job can seem a complete change from her full earlier career. But with a slight tilt of the head, connections between the two come clear.

In Zuckerman’s first career, she was a teacher of junior high and high school science, and eventually, a teacher of future teachers, at the State University of New York at New Paltz, where she is now professor emerita.

But currently, under the name June Trop, she is the author of a series of historical mystery novels, the third to be published in 2017. (She’s already at work on a fourth.) Her adventurous young heroine, an actual historical figure, lived about two millennia ago. As a scientist, “She had such huge stature,” and remained “the most celebrated woman of the Western world,” for 1,500 years, Zuckerman said.

The invention of the double boiler and the distillation apparatus still used in virtually every college chemistry lab has been credited to her by other scientists down through the millennia. When they’ve extended that credit, they’ve generally referred to her by one of several pseudonyms. Virtually nothing is known of her personal life, even her real name.

It's likely that was for reasons of self-protection. Miriam Bat Isaac, as Trop has named her, was drawn to the study of alchemy, a practice punishable by death.

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