Hoosier profiles – July 21

Pioneers in aviation, medicine and journalism and literal pioneers are among Hoosiers profiled in four recently published books.

Clowes Memorial Hall is a well-known musical venue in Indianapolis, but less widely known to the general public is the family behind it. George Henry Alexander Clowes was a key figure in the development of insulin production at Eli Lilly and Co. in Indianapolis. He also helped significantly in developing other pharmaceutical advances.

Clowes and his wife, Edith, known as “the Duchess,” are profiled in “The Doc and the Duchess,” written by grandson Alexander W. Clowes.

The book chronicles their lives and examines George Clowes’ pioneering research. It also describes several of their philanthropic endeavors, including the performing arts center at Butler University.

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The book is written in a clear but engaging manner, neither fawning nor clinical. Readers should find it informative and enlightening, showing the personal lives behind some very public endeavors.

In “Bold Women in Indiana History,” Columbus resident Louise Hillery profiles more than a dozen Hoosier women of note. Subjects include prominent figures, such as author and naturalist Gene Stratton Porter and cosmetics entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker, and less widely known people, such as three daughters of the Miami tribe, pioneering aviator Margaret Ray Ringenberg and journalist Lillian Thomas Fox.

Each woman is profiled in a separate chapter, making it easy to read the book in pieces.

The writing is geared to young people, but the author does not write down to her audience. As a result, adults are certain to learn a lot, even if they are well versed in Indiana history.

Gus Grissom was the first and best known of Indiana’s astronaut.

He was a member of the original Mercury Seven astronauts and made major contributions to the U.S. space program during the Gemini series of space flights.

He died in a launchpad fire Jan. 27, 1967.

But Grissom’s career was far more than a handful of space trips. Author George Leopold chronicles Grissom’s entire life, from his childhood in Mitchell, Indiana, through his military career to his years with NASA. Because no one had written a comprehensive and balanced biography, this book fills a literary and historical void. Attempting to fill another literary/historical void is Ball State professor Chris Flook. In “Native Americans of East-Central Indiana,” he offers an overview of Indiana’s Native American presence from the earliest known period through expulsion by white government in the early 1820s.

The writing style is easy to follow but still authoritative and well annotated. Numerous illustrations add to readers’ understanding.

While the author readily admits the book is far from comprehensive, he offers a solid survey that seeks to fill holes in the timeline of Hoosier history most schoolchildren are taught.

About the books


“The Doc and the Duchess”

Author: Alexander W. Clowes, M.D.

Publisher: Indiana University Press

Price: $25

“Bold Women in Indiana History”

Author: Louise Hillery

Publisher: Mountain Press, Missoula, Mont.

Price: $14

“Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom”

Author: George Leopold

Publisher: Purdue University Press

Price: $29.95

“Native Americans of East-Central Indiana”

Author: Chris Flook

Publisher: The History Press

Price: $21.99