Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Cathedrals of Science: The Personalities and Rivalries That Made Modern Chemistry Hardcover – August 29, 2008
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Focusing on [Gilbert Lewis, Irving Langmuir, Walther Nernst, Fritz Haber] and other dramatis personae, their convoluted motivations and fierce dedication, Coffey narrates the story of not just how physical chemistry became a modern sciene, but also how it helped changes the world - economically, socially, militarily, and politically. Ulitmately the book's greatest strength grows out of what the author intended: a graphic depiction of the "personalities and rivalries that made modern chemistry."--ISIS
"Weaving together the lives of the leaders of modern chemistry, Coffey shows how fights over priority, backstabbing, cronyism, and grudges shaped the history of chemistry just as much as the actual discoveries. It is an effective antidote to the bromide that science is the work of selfless, Spock-like automatons."--Books and Culture
"Coffey aims at unveiling how different personal characteristics led to differences in scientific styles. How friendships, camaraderie, enmities and rivalries played a role in shaping developments in science, in strengthening scientific and social networks, in articulation of research groups, in the establishment of codes of conduct between senior researchers and young students, and in responding to various political context, often extreme as in the case of the two world wars. Definitely, it is when discussing how conflicts of personalitites and controversies over scientific matters shape the real world of physical chemistry, that the author excels."--Metascience
"In Cathedrals of Science, Patrick Coffey returns to headier days for the field, when the work and relationship between a dozen-odd chemists - their brilliant collaborations, bitter one-upmanship, shifting loyalties and long-standing grudges - came to define modern chemistry and show how exactly scientific theories come to be attributed and accepted."--Zocalo Public Reviews
"An excellent overview of the developments of physical chemistry."--Chemical Education Today
"A gripping page-turning narrative that elegantly combines popular science with a serious history of science."--Chemistry World
"Cathedrals of Science sets a professional standard for the furthur historical analysis of the evolution of physical and theoretical chemistry."--Bulletin for the History of Chemistry
"Coffey has the proverbial good eye for anecdotes, which enlivens what could have been a dreary list of scholarly accusations."--Chemical and Engineering News
"The center of Patrick Coffey's remarkable story is the ultimate difficult genius, an American original, G. N. Lewis. Around him, in peace and war, move the men and women who have shaped our understanding of molecules and how they react. And they are hardly at peace with each other."--Roald Hoffman, chemist, writer, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
"This superbly crafted book traces the intertwined careers of scientific Titans whose work, despite human failings, created major parts of the conceptual edifice of modern physical science. It is a grand saga, as illuminating for our era as the Canterbury Tales are for the age that erected great masonry cathedrals."--Dudley Herschbach, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Patrick Coffey's wide-ranging account colorfully demonstrates, the pioneers of modern chemistry nurtured not just intellectual innovations but a collection of squabbles and grudges that influenced American science for a generation or more. Coffey excels at showing how chemistry developed both despite and because of personal rivalries in this complex and engaging tale."-- David Lindley, author of Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science
"Coffey has the experienced chemist's command of the science, the story-teller's gift for narrative, and the detective's tenacity in chasing down new evidence. Newcomers and experts alike will discover here a marvelous account of the main axes along which chemistry developed in the twentieth-century and find many new insights into both the science and the personalities of those who made it. This book is a joy to read."--John Servos, Anson D. Morse Professor of History, Amherst College and author of Physical Chemistry in America
"Patrick Coffey has combined science with biography to create a sweeping history of the transformative chemical discoveries of the first half of the 20th century. It is a history alive with brilliance and infused with human frailties. A compelling account of scientific revolution, tragedies, rivalries, and inspiration." --Nancy Greenspan, author of The End of the Certain World: The Life and Science of Max Born
"in this engrossing, often somber history, Coffey reminds us not just that science trumped by ideology is a damning proposition, but that even the most complex science starts with the efforts of mere humans." --Publishers Weekly
"A fascinating insight into the character of many of chemistry's most important personalities."--Nature Chemistry
"Cathedrals of Science is an engaging, well-written, balanced account of 13 chemists who built modern chemistry...High recommended."--Choice Magazine
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
It is also a cautionary tale. As we read of the excesses and abuses of government and society in a turbulent period of our history, we are reminded of the social and political unrest of our own time. Coffey writes with wit and wisdom and his biography of Lewis does justice to an amazing man and his extraordinary accomplishments. No background in science is required to enjoy this work, just an appreciation for thorough research and fine writing by an accomplished author.
G.N. Lewis invented "activity","fugacity", "ionic strength" and "photon" as terminology. "Lewisite" was named for a different Lewis.
I had not realized how involved he was in heavy water and isotopic labeling.
The material on Haber was interesting, but much of it was available elsewhere.
I had never read much about Langmuir before- his life was fascinating:
the mountain climbing, the connection with Kurt Vonnegut etc., and of course his work on chemical bonding and surface chemistry. I was impressed that he spoke fluent French and German.
Nernst I want to read more about, and Ostwald.
A theme throughout the book was the extreme sensitivity of many of these scientists to personal slights, quarrels over priority and the like.
Academic advancement depends on reputation-makes people crazy over things
many of the rest of us would let pass.
Dorothy Wrinch was new to me. Feminists may find her story pathetic, but possibly less so than that of Rosalind Franklin.
The assertion (p.209) that the first transmutation of an isotope of one element into that of another was done at Berkeley is most likely incorrect. I also found confusing the statement that an isotope had been
formed by bombarding something with neutrons in a cyclotron. I suspect some technicalities were left out in respect of general readers.
The author's plain talk about "the battles over priority of invention" and the scientific discovery methods gave me much insight into my own career in software engineering.
One other thing that I _really_ liked was the feeling that I had just taken a refresher chemistry class (except this was way more fun :-)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A lot of science for the non-scientific to muddle through, but interesting to read history of so many crucial discoveries and all the behind the scenes politics & personalities.Published 9 months ago by hildegator
Coffey mixes the right amount of science and individual personalities with the complex global backdrop to frame the tremendous advances of physical science in the early 20th... Read morePublished 18 months ago by MikeC
Very nice book, especially upon the occasion of the 100th anniversary Lewis electron pair theory (2016). Read morePublished 20 months ago by Pierre M. Esteves
I read this on the heels of Sam Keane's "The Disappearing Spoon .....". This is far more scholarly in digging out the theoretical foundations of physical chemistry, of... Read morePublished on August 18, 2013 by Amazon Customer
This book is great reading--I read it in about 2 sittings (and it's not short). Covers history of physical chemistry with emphasis on relationships between scientists, the World... Read morePublished on February 22, 2013 by eve