The book offers a total history of a discipline … Simonyi … largely succeeds in fostering the public understanding of a science in its broad historical context. … In the middle of the book the reader is treated with a sumptuous set of color plates attempting to give an overview of developments in physics interacting with the cultures of the successive periods. … its richly illustrated chapters and sections can be enjoyed independently, absorbed and savored slowly, by little doses of the magnificent history of our discipline.
—Amand A. Lucas, Il Nuovo Saggiatore (bulletin of the Italian Physical Society)
Simonyi bridges the gap between science and the humanities by presenting the history of physics in the context of the personalities and the culture in which the discoveries were made. The volume is lavishly illustrated with everything from pictures and drawings to facsimiles of pages from seminal research papers. … This is an extremely valuable reference for history of science and philosophy library collections. Highly recommended.
—C.G. Wood, CHOICE, July 2012
… lavishly illustrated, beautifully executed, with a tremendous number of quotations and unabashed use of equations. The author — who unquestionably has an uncommon talent for illustrating and organizing his ideas — made a tremendous effort to convey his extensive knowledge to potential readers. … My difficulty is of course in being able to adequately relate the worth of the treasure that the book is in a short review. I doubt that even a long review could give the book its due. … There is so much to be found in this book that make using it at all levels, from elementary school to university, interesting, indeed exciting. … I am convinced that those who read the book will enjoy the experience and end up with a cherished possession.
—Alex Bogomolny, MAA Reviews, June 2012
A Cultural History of Physics takes the reader on an immensely detailed and thoughtful tour. A Cultural History of Physics meticulously explains the specifics of its many examples, and it’s packed cover to cover with charts, graphs, and diagrams illustrating key physics discoveries and how they revolutionized the world. A working knowledge of algebra or basic calculus will aid the reader in fully understanding specific examples, but the broader picture of human history transformed by science is thoroughly accessible to lay readers. Highly recommended, especially for college and public library science shelves.
—Library Bookwatch, April 2012
About the Author
Károly Simonyi (1916–2001)
Károly Simonyi was born the seventh of ten children in a small village in Hungary. His talent for learning was apparent early on, and a prominent relative brought him to Budapest and sponsored his education. Simonyi went on to earn degrees in engineering and law.
After the tumultuous years of World War II, Simonyi returned to research, ultimately becoming a professor at the Budapest Technical University, where he was known as an outstanding teacher. He organized the Department of Theoretical Electrical Engineering, taught generations of electrical engineers, and published lectures and textbooks that have been translated into many languages.
Despite his accomplishments, the political climate of 1960s Hungary was not a favorable one for Simonyi, and his work at the university was increasingly curtailed until he ultimately lost his teaching position altogether. But even this could not keep Simonyi from his work. Though his profession was science, he had always maintained an interest in the humanities, and in his new circumstances he undertook a great project: to tell the story of the history of physics and the cultural, philosophical, and societal movements that had shaped and been shaped by its development. The book that grew out of this project, published first in Hungarian, then in German, and now in English, has been highly successful and widely read.
Creation of the English edition of A Cultural History of Physics has been directed by Károly’s son Charles. A successful entrepreneur, Charles emigrated to the United States as a teenager and went on to become a software engineer at Xerox and at Microsoft, where he oversaw the development of what would become some of Microsoft’s most profitable products: Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Charles is a distinguished philanthropist, as well as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.