Eurekas and Euphorias: The Oxford Book of Scientific Anecdotes

Eurekas and Euphorias: The Oxford Book of Scientific Anecdotes

by Walter Gratzer
     
 

"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,… See more details below

Overview

"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 Syracuse 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.

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Editorial Reviews

New Scientist
Robert Matthews: Eurekas and Euphorias, an anthology of scientific anecdotes compiled by Walter Gratzer, stands head and shoulders above the rest as a source of eclectic and entertaining insights into the scientific mind.
Nature
...equally 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.
Publishers Weekly
Sifting through centuries of scientific ephemera, biophysicist Gratzer uncovers what may be the real history of science, revealed not by its formal narratives but by anecdotes of discovery shared over cups of coffee and pints of beer. The resulting collection of almost 200 tales is a browser's delight, an informal history featuring appealing quotes from memoirs, biographies and reports and candid images of scientists at work. Gratzer, author of The Undergrowth of Science, acknowledges that he cannot verify the truth of each account (though he includes extremely reliable sources for most) and cheerfully notes that he includes reports he feels "deserve to be true." Luminaries from polymathic Archimedes, whom Grazter credits with "the first eureka," to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, who attributed his scientific inspiration to a Cornell University dining hall plate, are shown in all their brilliant (and sometimes nasty) humanity. Not surprisingly, many of science's greatest moments turn out to be the result of stereotypical absentmindedness, and Gratzer reports these incidents with affectionate glee. While some of the material is familiar, readers at all levels of scientific literacy will find fresh, witty and sometimes moving glimpses into the reality of scientific endeavor. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Gratzer has informed and entertained readers of Nature with his wittily written reviews for years. He is the perfect author and editor for this hilarious compilation of scientific history, gossip and eccentricity."—Sunday Times (London)

"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 bonbons—each cryptic title entices you to sample the offering within."—Astronomy

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780198609407
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
03/05/2004
Series:
Popular Science Series
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
7.60(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)

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