"Writing books is like eating peanuts. As soon as you finish one, you start on another." --Irving Adler
While a graduate student he met Ruth Relis, a seventeen-year-old sophomore attending Barnard College. Ruth was born on a farm in New York and went to a one-room schoolhouse when she was young. She was sent to college in New York City when she was 16. They were married in 1935, one day before Ruth received her college degree.
Adler was a mathematics professor at Columbia University and Bennington College, and at one time was the head of the mathematics department of a New York City high school. In 1937 he took a course in atomic structure at Columbia University. He says of this course, "This course planted in my head... that the main ideas that physicists have put together in their theories of atomic structure are so simple that it should be possible to explain them to children... By this time there was a full-grown book in my head clamoring to be let out to explain to children how we learn about small things like atoms and big things like stars." So, he wrote the book that was clamoring to get out of his head. Later it was divided into two books, The Secret of Light and The Stars: Steppingstones Into Space.
At first Ruth illustrated the books that Irving wrote. Later she helped selected subjects, discussed outlines, and read and critiqued everything he wrote. When they began the Reason Why books, she began writing whole books herself. There are 30 books in this series, Ruth wrote 23 and illustrated almost all of them.
Writing allowed Adler more time for his studies than teaching and he received his PhD in pure mathematics in October 1961. Mrs. Adler also returned to graduate school after their children were in school and received a master of arts degree in 1959.
Together they have written more than fifty books about science and mathematics. Their books have been printed in 13 languages! Dr. Adler also wrote seven books under the pen name Robert Irving.
I also thought it interesting that one of their children became a theoretical physicist and the other became an author and illustrator!
Ruth became very ill in 1968. When she became too weak to write to her friend, Joyce, in South America, Irving would write letters for her. After Ruth's death, he continued to write to Joyce. They later became good friends and eventually married.
"The Adlers have an unfailing ability to get at the heart of science and express great truths in simple, direct prose." - Horn Book
List of titles by Irving Adler:
The Reason Why Series, published by The John Day Company, New York in the 1960s. Science books for young readers that show basic principles at work in this fascinating universe, explaining them with imagination and clarity.:
Earth's Crust, The
Insects and Plants
Irrigation: Changing Deserts to Gardens
Numbers Old and New
Numerals: New Dresses for Old Numbers
Story of a Nail, The, c1961
Things That Spin: From Tops to Atoms
Why? A Book of Reasons
Why and How? A Second Book of Reasons
Books for Older Readers by Irving Adler:
Color in Your Life
Elementary Mathematics of the Atom
Fire in Your Life
Hot and Cold
How Life Began
Inside the Nucleus
Logic for Beginners
Magic House of Numbers
Monkey Business: Hoaxes in the Name of Science
New Look at Arithmetic, A
New Mathematics, The
Probability and Statistics for Every Man
Secret of Light, The
Seeing the Earth From Space
Stars, The: Stepping Stones Into Space
Sun and Its Family, The
Time in Your Life
Tools in Your Life
Tools of Science, The
Weather in Your Life
What we Want of Our Schools