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The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery of 20th Century Physicists

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The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery of 20th Century Physicists

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    Available in PDF Format | The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery of 20th Century Physicists.pdf | English
    Abraham Pais(Author)
Abraham Pais is the acclaimed author of the definitive biographies of Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, two of the twentieth century's greatest scientists. As a distinguished theoretical physicist himself, he was also acquainted with many of the other influential scientists of his time.In this new book, Pais turns his attention to 14 other scientists, all distinguished in their own right, but who had appeared as the supporting cast to his previous biographies. We meet, among others, the famously taciturn Paul Dirac; Max Born, who coined the term 'quantum mechanics';Wolfgang Pauli, famed for his exclusion principle and known as the conscience of twentieth-century physics; Mitchell Feigenbaum, inventor of chaos theory; and John von Neumann, one of the most influential mathematicians of the century. In addition, and because their work is so relevant to the others discussed, Pais has included chapters on Einstein and Bohr, in each case giving the essence of the man's character and scientific achievement.In each case, Pais presents a blend of the personality and achievements of the scientist, assisted by his deep knowledge of physics and his personal acquaintance with the subject. The result is a unique and illuminating collection of portraits that sheds light on both their personalities and their work and lasting influence on science.It will be read by all those with an interest in the development of science in the twentieth century, from relativity to chaos theory.

Physics might seem part of an alien culture to most people but it has touched all our lives and its by-products, in the form of nuclear fission, are going to remain with us for many generations to come. It could be argued that the 20th century was the century of theoretical physics. The Genius of Science is, as its subtitle tells us, a portrait gallery of 16 of the most interesting and eminent of the international physicists, from Niels Bohr to Eugene Wigner, who helped change our view of the world. But the character list is much, much larger and interweaves most of the international network of physicists and other prominent scientists of the last century. Abraham Pais is an eminent American theoretical physicist and professor at the Rockefeller University who has previously written well acclaimed biographies of Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, two of the greatest scientists of the 20th century. He has been personally acquainted with many of the people he is writing about and often appears as a shadowy figure in the background. Anyone can dip into The Genius of Science anywhere and be immediately grabbed by both the extraordinary and ordinary aspects of the lives of these scientists. Pais provides plenty of anecdotes, from those about Bohr's pipe-smoking to Oppenheimer's reaction to the first successful atomic bomb test "...some lines of the Bhagavad Gita went through his mind: I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.". Pais wants to bring life back to these people but not in any salacious way for as he admits he has "never been interested in entering others' bedrooms". If you want psycho-biography or scandal you will not find it here but the general reader will get a sense of the trials, tribulations and excitement of the scientific life. There are plenty of references for those that want to follow up the details and a useful index of names of the characters mentioned in the text.--Douglas Palmer

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Book details

  • PDF | 368 pages
  • Abraham Pais(Author)
  • OUP Oxford; 1st Edition edition (16 Mar. 2000)
  • English
  • 6
  • Science & Nature

Review Text

  • By Palle E T Jorgensen on 15 August 2003

    What makes Pais' book especially compelling and captivatingis that he knew the main players in Science over the period of a lifetime. And then the unique quality of his writing! Theresult is a page turner. We are given a glimps into the personal lives of Bohr, of Dirac, of Einstein, of von Neumann, of Pauli,and of others of the major profiles in science in the twentieth century;-- and Pais offers his own thoughts on their scienceas well. Based on having worked with them...Pais also wrote landmark biographies of Bohr and Einstein. Highly recommended.Reviewed by Palle Jorgensen.

  • By Palle E T Jorgensen on 15 August 2003

    What makes Pais' book especially compelling and captivatingis that he knew the main players in Science over the period of a lifetime. And then the unique quality of his writing! Theresult is a page turner. We are given a glimps into the personal lives of Bohr, of Dirac, of Einstein, of von Neumann, of Pauli,and of others of the major profiles in science in the twentieth century;-- and Pais offers his own thoughts on their scienceas well. Based on having worked with them...Pais also wrote landmark biographies of Bohr and Einstein. Highly recommended.Reviewed by Palle Jorgensen.

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