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Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century Reprint Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0195365566
ISBN-10: 0195365569
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Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century + John Von Neumann: The Scientific Genius Who Pioneered the Modern Computer, Game Theory, Nuclear Deterrence, and Much More + Judging Edward Teller: A Closer Look at One of the Most Influential Scientists of the Twentieth Century
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"What a story! Five brilliant Jewish-Hungarian kids burst out of the great secondary schools of Hungary, learn their physics in Germany, and give their all to America in WWII István Hargittai, a Jewish Hungarian like his heroes, tells the remarkable story of five immigrants of vastly different politics, without whom American science (and the world) would not be the same."--Roald Hoffman, Nobel Laureate, Ithaca, New York


"István Hargittai traces the turbulent lives of five uniquely creative scientists who survived, succeeded, and changed the world."--Arno Penzias, Nobel laureate, San Francisco


"This is an important story that needs to be told, and Hargittai tells it well."--Nature


"Hargittai's book is subtle and thoughtful."--Physics Today


Charlie Munger of WESCO Financial Corporation recommended this book at the 2007 WESCO Annual Meeting: "It is a hell of a book about five Hungarian physicists driven to the U.S. by Hitler, who contributed much to science here. I can't recommend it enough."--Charlie Munger


"fascinating and informative"--Chemical Heritage


About the Author


István Hargittai is Professor of Chemistry and head of the George A. Olah PhD School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. He is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and has lectured in some 30 countries and taught at several universities in the United States. His books include the Candid Science series of his collected interviews with famous scientists, The Road to Stockholm, and Our Lives.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (June 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195365569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195365566
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.9 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Istvan Hargittai, PhD, DSc (Budapest, Hungary), is the author of several acclaimed books including the six-volume Candid Science series of interviews with famous scientists; The Road to Stockholm: Nobel Prizes, Science, and Scientists; The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century; and The DNA Doctor: Candid Conversations with James D. Watson. Dr. Hargittai is professor of chemistry at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics and head of the George A Olah PhD School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. He is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and a member of the Academia Europaea in London. His work on the Teller book was assisted by a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Eszter Hargittai on February 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the daughter of the book's author, I bring an unusual perspective to this piece, one that will give you some background on how this book came about and why you will be in for a treat when reading it.

My father knew two of the five Martians discussed in this volume (Wigner and Teller) and had expressed a great interest in the work and lives of all five (Szilard, von Neumann, von Karman in addition to the above two) throughout his life. Curiously, however, despite having written numerous books about scientists, he never intended to write a book about these five until Oxford University Press approached him about it. When he finally took up this project, he threw himself into it with zest. When the book was near completion, he met with almost all of the surviving children of the Martians, not to change anything but to get an additional impression of their personalities. A byproduct of the book was a play he wrote about Teller, which surprised even me despite being used to his occasional unusual ideas.

Looking back, the Martians were always on my father's mind, and he cherished his long-lasting personal acquaintance with Eugene P. Wigner. (Even as a child, I remember seeing the picture of the two of them taken upon their encounter at the University of Texas at Austin in 1969.) The family legend had it that we might be distant relatives, but there was never any hard evidence for that. My father started correspondence with Wigner when he was still a student, well before I was born. Actually, Wigner wrote him first after my father had published an article in a Hungarian literary magazine soon after Wigner's Nobel Prize. My father's acquaintance with Teller came much later, when he and my mother visited the Tellers in their home in Stanford in 1996.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By K. Jack on January 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a very interesting and informative book that I heartily recommend. I was inspired to buy it after reading a review of it in Nature magazine where the reviewer ended on the following helpful note: "This is an important story that needs to be told, and Hargittai tells it well", an assessment with which I concur.

The book is about the lives of five Hungarian Jewish scientists whose work changed the world, not just the world of science, but the world of politics as well due to the circumstances and period in which they lived and thrived.

The author does a very thorough job tracing the history of these important men. We are shown the uniqueness and diversity of the five Martians (Theodore von Karman, John von Neumann, Leo Szilard, Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner) in addition to considering what bound them together. It is interesting to follow their parallel lives throughout exciting periods of the 20th century. Hargittai conveys the flavor of turn-of-the-century Budapest that yielded not only important scientists but also famous and important contributors to other realms of life (e.g. composers such as Bartok).

The author does a very good job of communicating how circumstances and situations evolved. For example, we see a change from the peaceful coexistence and cooperation of Jews and the rest of Hungary's population to a horribly anti-Semitic society. We are also told about transitions such as how the Martians turned from dedicated students into top players in world science; how the initially Ivory-tower scientists became the most practical contributors to the American military might; how esoteric physics became a source of lethal weaponry within a mere few years; and how quiet immigrants became esteemed citizens with a strong political voice.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Russell A. Rohde MD on December 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century", by Istavan Hargittai, Oxford Univ. Press, NY 2006. ISBN 13 978-0-19-517845-6. HC 314/240 pages includes Preface, Contents, Intro., Appendix 12 pgs., Notes 36 pgs., Biblio. 6 pgs., Chronologies 7 pgs., & Index 12 pgs. 9.5" x 6.5"

A cleverly devised treatise details five of the Worlds' most notable theoretical physicists - all began as Jewish Hungarian citizens of Budapest who, in time, migrated to the U.S., toiled collectively and separately to develop strategic defense systems including the atomic & hydrogen bombs, computers, modernized Airforce, and establishing or working at the AEC, NASA, JPL, Manhattan Project, Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, etc.

Convenient attribute of this writing is its apportionment into six chapters to reveal their progressive transition from early childhood into figures of greatness and thence onto their waning years. It reflects their family influences, societal environs, politico-economic conditions, scholastic opportunities, and acceptance into American cultural institutions as Princeton, Harvard, Berkeley, Caltech and the U.S. military.

The plethora of B & W photographs contributes enormously to the book's value as does appendix of "Sampler of Quotable Martians". Perhaps most importantly are descriptors of personal interactions amongst the Martians themselves. This book embraces exciting history, racism, psychological ploys of embattled nations & bureaucracies, and the search for peace amidst glorious and sometimes inglorious purlieus. That the author is an acclaimed writer, recognized scientist, Professor of chemistry, authored several dozen books and is personally acquainted with and interviewed several of the 'Martians' is a plus. Its a good read and the price is right.
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