Great Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking

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Here is a lively history of modern physics, as seen through the lives of thirty men and women from the pantheon of physics. William H. Cropper vividly portrays the life and accomplishments of such giants as Galileo and Isaac Newton, Marie Curie and Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, right up to contemporary figures such as Richard Feynman, Murray Gell-Mann, and Stephen Hawking. We meet scientists--all geniuses--who could be gregarious, aloof, unpretentious, friendly, dogged, imperious, generous to colleagues or contentious rivals. As Cropper captures their personalities, he also offers vivid portraits of their great moments of discovery, their bitter feuds, their relations with family and friends, their religious beliefs and education. In addition, Cropper has grouped these biographies by discipline--mechanics, thermodynamics, particle physics, and others--each section beginning with a historical overview. Thus in the section on quantum mechanics, readers can see how the work of Max Planck influenced Niels Bohr, and how Bohr in turn influenced Werner Heisenberg.
Our understanding of the physical world has increased dramatically in the last four centuries. With Great Physicists, readers can retrace the footsteps of the men and women who led the way.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This book provides encapsulated histories of 30 physicists who have made major contributions to the development of physics over the last five centuries, from Galileo to Hawking. ... This has the wonderful effect of laying out the development of physics in an exciting continuous stream, interweaving the social and scientific lives of all the scientists very effectively. The individual chapters are scholarly yet brief, concise and to the point, focusing on the crucial life events and the major scientific breakthroughs. ... We need something like this for mathematics now!"--Mathematical Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195173246
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 670,976
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

William H. Cropper is Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at St. Lawrence University. He lives in Saugerties, New York.

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Table of Contents

I Mechanics : historical synopsis 3
1 How the heavens go : Galileo Galilei 5
2 A man obsessed : Isaac Newton 18
II Thermodynamics : historical synopsis 41
3 A tale of two revolutions : Sadi Carnot 43
4 On the dark side : Robert Mayer 51
5 A holy undertaking : James Joule 59
6 Unities and a unifier : Hermann Helmholtz 71
7 The scientist as virtuoso : William Thomson 78
8 The road to entropy : Rudolf Clausius 93
9 The greatest simplicity : Willard Gibbs 106
10 The last law : Walther Nernst 124
III Electromagnetism : historical synopsis 135
11 A force of nature : Michael Faraday 137
12 The scientist as magician : James Clerk Maxwell 154
IV Statistical mechanics : historical synopsis 177
13 Molecules and entropy : Ludwig Boltzmann 179
V Relativity : historical synopsis 201
14 Adventure in thought : Albert Einstein 203
VI Quantum mechanics : historical synopsis 229
15 Reluctant revolutionary : Max Planck 231
16 Science by conversation : Niels Bohr 242
17 The scientist as critic : Wolfgang Pauli 256
18 Matrix mechanics : Werner Heisenberg 263
19 Wave mechanics : Erwin Schrodinger and Louis de Broglie 275
VII Nuclear physics : historical synopsis 293
20 Opening doors : Marie Curie 295
21 On the crest of a wave : Ernest Rutherford 308
22 Physics and friendships : Lise Meitner 330
23 Complete physicist : Enrico Fermi 344
VIII Particle physics : historical synopsis 363
24 i[gamma][actual symbol not reproducible][psi] : m[psi]: Paul Dirac 365
25 What do you care? : Richard Feynman 376
26 Telling the tale of the quarks : Murray Gell-Mann 403
IX Astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology : historical synopsis 421
27 Beyond the galaxy : Edwin Hubble 423
28 Ideal scholar : Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar 438
29 Affliction, fame, and fortune : Stephen Hawking 452
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