The Shark’s Paintbrush – Book Review

The Shark's Paintbrush Book CoverThe cover of Jay Harman’s book The Shark’s Paintbrush caught my eye on a bookstore table.

I imagined grasping a thrashing shark while trying to dip its tail fin in a can of paint. Upon picking up the book I saw the whole title was The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation. I thought to myself, “Cool, a book about biomimicry. I wonder how the shark fits in.” I bought the book.

Book Review

The Shark’s Paintbrush begins…

“Most young ladies sunning by the pool or beach probably aren’t thinking about a hippopotamus, let alone its perspiration. However, it turns out hippo sweat provides a highly effective, four-in-one sunblock.”

If your interest wasn’t instantly captured by those two sentences, perhaps you should consider reading a different book.

Readers of The Shark’s Paintbrush will enter the fascinating and sometimes weird world of biomimicry where lessons and inspiration are drawn from nature and used to design, engineer, and make products for a sustainable world.

The book is loosely organized into three parts:

  • Part One: A New Golden Age
  • Part Two: Biomimicry at Work
  • Part Three: The Nature of Change

In part one learn why the old “heat, beat, and treat” industrial methods will not work for the future. Discover how nature has been working on and perfecting solutions to all kinds of problems for millions of years. It isn’t always pretty and sometimes it’s brutal, but it works. Find out how seashells and whirlpools led to a multimillion dollar business.

Nature’s design and engineering prowess are the focus of part two. Read about numerous examples of how denizens of the sea, land, and air solve problems and adapt to specific habitat conditions. View fluid dynamics, adhesives, communication networks, antibiotics, and building materials from nature’s perspective. Uncover the mystery of the shark’s paintbrush.

The final section of the book contains real-life stories of biomimicry products and businesses drawn from Harman’s own experience and other biomimics. Get an honest assessment of the challenges entailed in bringing a biomimicry product to market as well as practical advice on how to do so successfully.

The Bottom Line

Born in Australia, Harman grew up in and around the ocean and worked as a naturalist with the Australian Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. He refers to himself as a serial entrepreneur and inventor. Harman is currently the President and CEO of Pax Scientific a biomimic inspired engineering, research, and product design firm.

Biomimicry novices will walk away with a good understanding of the topic and hopefully an interest to learn more. Biomimic inventors and entrepreneurs will get a taste of the real world as well as a glimpse at success.

I recommend The Shark’s Paintbrush to anyone who plans to live on this planet now or in the future. It should be required reading for all corporate executives charged with fostering innovation within their companies.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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