Medical action interrupts science talk at Bishop’s School


It was science writing that students assembled at The Bishop’s School gymnasium to learn about on Wednesday morning, Jan. 24. But, about 40 minutes into the hour-long assembly featuring bestselling author Sam Kean, they also got a life lesson when a male faculty member in the audience suffered a sudden medical emergency.

The audible thud of the victim’s head hitting the floor led to murmurs of concerned shock and the presentation’s abrupt termination. Within six minutes, an ambulance was on campus to rush the faculty member — whose name the Light is withholding out of respect for his privacy — to a local hospital.

“I certainly hope he feels better,” Kean said while still standing at the podium, stunned.

Kean — a Washington, D.C.-based science journalist whose science-based novels include “The Disappearing Spoon,” “The Violinist’s Thumb” and his latest, “Caesar’s Last Breath” — had been giving a talk during which he advised students to learn the craft of writing because it will benefit them along any career path.

“Find the thing that you’re passionate and excited about, and readers will follow you there,” Kean told the assembly. “If you’re not passionate and excited … it’s going to feel like a waste of your time.”

Kean capped the talk by sharing some of favorite social-media reactions to his work with the audience. One, from a Twitter user named Lindsay, stood out: “Hey, just wanted to let you know that your book, ‘The Disappearing Spoon,’ makes me want to stab my eyes out with forks. :- ).”

“She did put a smiley-face at the end,” Kean noted to explosive laughter, adding, “I understand that my books aren’t for everyone, but I hope that I’m able to get across some of the actually exciting things about science.”

Kean had just launched into a Q&A session, responding to a physics student who asked whether he intended to write any books incorporating physics, when the medical emergency interrupted.

Fortunately, Bishop’s told the Light that the faculty member is feeling much better and that not nothing was seriously wrong.

Kean’s appearance — the first of two he made at the school last week — was part of The Bishop’s School’s Shaffer Family Foundation science lecture series.