“One thing I had no idea about was her impoverished background. She came from a situation where, basically, her family had nothing,” Weinstock says. As the daughter of immigrants in 1930s New York City, Dresselhaus lived through one of the most difficult times in American history. To help keep her family afloat, she got her first job at just eight years old, as a tutor for a special-needs student. She also worked as a child laborer in a sweatshop, putting zippers together.
Weinstock was surprised as well to learn about Dresselhaus’s deep love of music.
“Music played a central role in every stage of her life,” she says. “Without music, she would not have become a scientist, or at least it would have been a very different path.” Dresselhaus displayed a flawless memory for music from the age of four and earned a scholarship to a music school alongside her brother, a violin prodigy. She would go on to make music a focal point in her family and in her professional life, continuing to play the violin at least two days a week until her death.
Weinstock hopes her book will inspire the next generation. “If I had a book like this when I was growing up,” she says, “it would have been really helpful to see this example and say, ‘I want to do something like that too.’”
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