Cover image for Great physicists : the life and times of leading physicists from Galileo to Hawking
Great physicists : the life and times of leading physicists from Galileo to Hawking
Cropper, William H.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xii, 500 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Mechanics. Historical synopsis. How the heavens go / Galileo Galilei -- A man obsessed / Isaac Newton. Thermodynamics. Historical synopsis. A tale of two revolutions / Sadi Carnot -- On the dark side / Robert Mayer -- A holy undertaking / James Joule -- Unities and a unifier / Hermann Helmholtz -- The scientist as virtuoso / William Thomson -- The road to entropy / Rudolf Clausius -- The greatest simplicity / Willard Gibbs -- The last law / Walther Nernst. Electromagnetism. Historical synopsis. A force of nature / Michael Faraday -- The scientist as magician / James Clerk Maxwell. Statistical mechanics. Historical synopsis. Molecules and entropy / Ludwig Boltzmann. Relativity. Historical synopsis. Adventure in thought / Albert Einstein. Quantum mechanics. Historical synopsis. Reluctant revolutionary / Max Planck -- Science by conversation / Niels Bohr -- The scientist as critic / Wolfgang Pauli -- Matrix mechanics / Werner Heisenberg -- Wave mechanics / Erwin Schrödinger and Louis de Broglie. Nuclear physics. Historical synopsis. Opening doors / Marie Curie -- On the crest of a wave / Ernest Rutherford -- Physics and friendships / Lise Meitner -- Complete physicist / Enrico Fermi. Particle physics. Historical synopsis. iγ · [delta] [psi] = m [psi] / Paul Dirac -- What do you care? / Richard Feynman -- Telling the tale of the quarks / Murray Gell-Mann. Astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology. Historical synopsis. Beyond the galaxy / Edwin Hubble -- Ideal scholar / Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar -- Affliction, fame, and fortune / Stephen Hawking.
Reading Level:
1260 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library QC15 .C76 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



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 meetscientists--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 withfamily and friends, their religious beliefs and education. In addition, since scientists in a particular field often inspire those who follow, Cropper has grouped these biographies by discipline--mechanics, thermodynamics, particle physics, and so on--each section beginning with a historicaloverview. 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. By sequencing the biographies in this way, Cropper gives us an overall portrait of each field. Our understanding of the physical world has increased dramatically in the last four centuries, starting with Galileo and his telescope and stretching to Stephen Hawking's work on black holes and cosmology. With Great Physicists, readers can retrace the footsteps of the men and women who ledthe way.

Author Notes

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

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Although genuine understanding of physical principles eludes the mathematically challenged, that has scarcely dented the popularity of biographies of physicists or their often best-selling general-interest works. Market-savvy publishers merely request that the math be confined to iconic equations, an f=ma here, an e=mc2 there. But Cropper has obviously won any arguments on that score in this work profiling 30 scientists; although he incorporates nothing beyond the ken of high-school calculus students, the chapter on Paul Dirac is titled "i[GREEK CHARACTERS]=m[GREEEK CHARACTER]." That equation describes the behavior of the electron, and in the late 1920s it reconciled competing interpretations of the spooky quantum world: Heisenberg's matrix mechanics and Schrodinger's wave mechanics. Since this equation immortalized Dirac, it is high time to let it out of textbooks and into general circulation. Fear not that Cropper stands merely at the blackboard in this work; his reworking of the abundant extant biographical material enhances the appeal of his book for reflective science students. --Gilbert Taylor

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
I Historical Synopsisp. 3
1 How the Heavens Gop. 5
2 A Man Obsessedp. 18
II Historical Synopsisp. 41
3 A Tale of Two Revolutionsp. 43
4 On the Dark Sidep. 51
5 A Holy Undertakingp. 59
6 Unities and a Unifierp. 71
7 The Scientist as Virtuosop. 78
8 The Road to Entropyp. 93
9 The Greatest Simplicityp. 106
10 The Last Lawp. 124
III Historical Synopsisp. 135
11 A Force of Naturep. 137
12 The Scientist as Magicianp. 154
IV Historical Synopsisp. 177
13 Molecules and Entropyp. 179
V Historical Synopsisp. 201
14 Adventure in Thoughtp. 203
VI Historical Synopsisp. 229
15 Reluctant Revolutionaryp. 231
16 Science by Conversationp. 242
17 The Scientist as Criticp. 256
18 Matrix Mechanicsp. 263
19 Wave Mechanicsp. 275
VII Historical Synopsisp. 293
20 Opening Doorsp. 295
21 On the Crest of a Wavep. 308
22 Physics and Friendshipsp. 330
23 Complete Physicistp. 344
VIII Historical Synopsisp. 363
24 I¿·∂¿ = M¿p. 365
25 What Do You Care?p. 376
26 Telling the Tale of the Quarksp. 403
IX Historical Synopsisp. 421
27 Beyond the Galaxyp. 423
28 Ideal Scholarp. 438
29 Affliction, Fame, and Fortunep. 452
Chronology of the Main Eventsp. 464
Glossaryp. 469
Invitation to More Readingp. 478
Indexp. 485

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