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Genetic Linkage

‘Lessons in Chemistry’: New Apple TV series based on best-selling book has opportunity to skewer sexism while challenging the ‘nerd stereotype’

I loved Lessons in Chemistry, the hit novel by Bonnie Garmus, and I'm thrilled that Apple TV+ picked it up "straight-to-series" more than a year before it was published in March 2022. Executive Producer Brie Larson, of "Room" and "Captain Marvel" fame, stars as chemist-turned-TV-cook Elizabeth Zott.

The book is hilarious, fast-paced, and expertly plotted. But while the feminist message is obvious, the subtext simmers with a disturbing "othering" of scientists. Let's see what happens with the TV version, which debuts in 2023.


Book synopsis

In 1956 Elizabeth Zott works at the Hastings Research Institute in Commons, California, "EZ" emblazoned on her lab coat. She has a master's in chemistry, which in science generally means failing to pass qualifying exams — sometimes it's even called a "terminal masters," like a cancer. 


When she hunts for spare beakers in the lab of star chemist Calvin Evans, he assumes she's a secretary. Two weeks later, they bump into each other at an operetta and Calvin, sick from something he ate and after his date bolts, promptly barfs on her. 


The two share interests, traumatic upbringings, and a physical attraction that neither at first wants to acknowledge. But they bond (more a covalent sharing than an ionic exchange). She tends to get on her soapbox, lamenting the system that keeps women out of science. 


"'You're saying,' he said slowly, 'that more women actually want to be in science,'" Calvin probes incredulously. 


To continue reading, go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this post first appeared. 

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