Eurekas and Euphorias: The Oxford Book of Scientific Anecdotesby Walter Gratzer
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The march of science has never proceeded smoothly. It has been marked through the years by episodes of drama and comedy, of failure as well as triumph, and by outrageous strokes of luck, deserved and undeserved, and sometimes by human tragedy. It has seen deep intellectual friendships, as well as ferocious animosities, and once in a while acts of theft and malice, deceit, and even a hoax or two. Scientists come in all shapes - the obsessive and the dilettantish, the genial, the envious, the preternaturally brilliant and the slow-witted who sometimes see further in the end, the open-minded and the intolerant, recluses and arrivistes. From the death of Archimedes at the hands of an irritated Roman soldier to the concoction of a superconducting witches' brew at the very close of the twentieth century, the stories in Eurekas and Euphorias pour out, told with wit and relish by Walter Gratzer. Open this book at random and you may chance on the clumsy chemist who breaks a thermometer in a reaction vat and finds mercury to be the catalyst that starts the modern dyestuff industry; or a famous physicist dissolving his gold Nobel Prize medal in acid to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Nazis, recovering it when the war ends; mathematicians and physicists diverting themselves in prison cells, and even in a madhouse, by creating startling advances in their subject. We witness the careers, sometimes tragic, sometimes carefree, of the great women mathematicians, from Hypatia of Alexandria to Sophie Germain in France and Sonia Kovalevskaya in Russia and Sweden, and then Marie Curie's relentless battle with the French Academy. Here, then, a glorious parade unfolds to delight the reader, with stories to astonish, to instruct, and most especially, to entertain.
"Stands head and shoulders above the rest as a source of eclectic and entertaining insights into the scientific mind.... His swift word pictures of discoveries in often astounding circumstances will entertain and intrigue even the most jaded."New Scientist
"One can open the book at any point and be educated, thrilled, sobered or surprised, for there is astonishment and delight on every page. I, for one, will put this book next to W.H. Auden's book on aphorisms, John Bartlett's book of quotations, and that ultimate example in illustration, the great Oxford English Dictionary (OED), for finally this is a sort of OED of scientists and science, a banquet of epiphanies, a reference book which is also a work of art."Oliver Sacks, Nature
"Reading the table of contents of this book is like opening a box of assorted bonbonseach cryptic title entices you to sample the offering within."Astronomy
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Meet the Author
Walter Gratzer is a biophysicist at the Randall Centre for Molecular Mechanisms of Cell Function, King's College London. He is known to a wide readership through his book reviews, most of which have appeared regularly in Nature: they are invariably models of clarity and elegance. He edited The Longman Literary Companion to Science (published in the USA as The Literary Companion to Science) and The Bedside Nature, and he is author of The Undergrowth of Science: Delusion, Self-Deception and Human Frailty (OUP, 2000).
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