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[greek characters]." 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 TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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"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