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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Five "Giants" who Altered Our View of the Heavens Forever
+++++

The brilliant idea behind this book is the inclusion of selected, original, translated "Great Works of Physics and Astronomy" (which is the book's subtitle). These works were written by five intellectual "giants" (all men whose portraits are shown on the book's cover). This book's title "On the Shoulders of Giants" was a phrase used in a letter by one...
Published on June 12, 2004 by Stephen Pletko

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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Impressive but not what was promoted
This book contains writings of five of the greatest scientists who have ever lived. They changed the way we thought about nature and in so doing changed the way we thought about ourselves. Nicolaus Copernicus challenged the notion of a heliocentric universe. Galileo Galilei reiterated that with the added evidence of moons of other worlds. He introduced the discipline of...
Published on August 14, 2004 by Avid Reader


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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Five "Giants" who Altered Our View of the Heavens Forever, June 12, 2004
By 
This review is from: On The Shoulders Of Giants (Paperback)
+++++

The brilliant idea behind this book is the inclusion of selected, original, translated "Great Works of Physics and Astronomy" (which is the book's subtitle). These works were written by five intellectual "giants" (all men whose portraits are shown on the book's cover). This book's title "On the Shoulders of Giants" was a phrase used in a letter by one of these men and the meaning of it is the theme of this book. Its meaning, as Dr. Stephen Hawking states, is "how science...is a series of incremental advances each building on what went before." This book uses these five men's great works "to trace the evolution of our picture of the heavens."

This book was edited and has "commentary" by Hawking. The reader is not told exactly what Hawking's commentary is but I assume it is the short but excellent introduction to the book, the brief but informative biographies or "Life and Work" of each man, and the helpful footnotes included with each great work. All these as a whole comprise less than 2% of this nearly 1300 page book.

I found in the page entitled "A Note on the Texts" the following: "The texts [or great works] in this book are based on translations of the original, printed editions [or papers]. [There has been] no attempt to modernize [or correct] the author's own distinct usage, spelling, or punctuation, or to make the texts consistent with each other in this regard." I assume this also applies to errors in grammar and errors to equations (such as omissions). That is, any errors in the original, translated papers are not corrected.

Who were these giants and what great work (that's included in this book) did they produce? The answer is as follows:

1. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 to 1543). The work included is entitled "On the Revolutions of [the] Heavenly Spheres" (1543). This work was the beginning of the Sun-centered "Copernican revolution." It has an introduction and six parts or "books." This work comprises about 30% of this book.

2. Galileo Galilei (1564 to 1642). Work included: "Dialogues [or Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations] Concerning Two [New] Sciences" (1638). This work "is widely held to be the cornerstone of modern physics." It has four parts or "days." It comprises about 18% of the book.

3. Johannes Kepler (1571 to 1630). Work included: Book Five of "Harmonies of the World" (1618). With this book and his other four, "Kepler discovered how planets orbited." It has an introduction and ten chapters. Comprises 7% of this book.

4. Sir Isaac Newton (1642 to 1727). Work included: "The Mathematical Priciples of Natural Philosophy" (1687). Better known as "The Principia." This work includes Newton's three laws of motion and his law of universal gravitation. It has an introduction and three parts or "books." Comprises 34% of this book.

5. Albert Einstein (1879 to 1955). Work (which was co-authored) includes: Seven selections from "The Principles of Relativity: A Collection of Original Papers on the Special Theory of Relativity" (1922). In these works, read how Einstein altered our perception of space and time. Comprises 8% of this book.

To read the works of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler, it would be helpful to know some geometry, trigonometry, and algebra. The same goes for the work of Newton but knowing some calculus would also be helpful. For the works of Einstein, knowing some advanced mathematics (such as advanced calculus) would be helpful.

I found, for myself, that in all of the above great works, the person's thought processes could be easily followed (even if the mathematics was unclear). This even applied to the works of Einstein. I recommend reading each of these works slowly and taking frequent breaks since the reading can become tedious at times.

There were three problems I found with this book:

First, the table of contents. For the major works, it just states their title and page number of where they begin. For example, the work of Einstein begins on page 1167 and that's all we're told!! Why not list the seven selections that are included? Thus, state in the table of contents that one selection has the title "On the Influence of Gravitation on the Propagation of Light" and that it begins on page 1193. Or consider the work of Copernicus. Why not state that part four of his work starts on page 197? Since this book is so large (and probably intimitating to some), I feel that a good, detailed table of contents is imperative.

Second, I found small errors in that 1% of the book that does not include the great works and Life & Work sections. (Fortunately, these errors are corrected in these sections of the book.) For example, in the "A Note on the Texts" page, we are told that "Kepler completed [his] work on May...1816." But he died in 1630! Or the table of contents states that Newton's birth year was 1643. I don't normally nit-pick like this, but since there were only five men, I feel that little errors like this should not be made.

Third, the "Life and Work" sections are not referenced. Where was this detailed information obtained?

Finally, a few equations in the Einstein papers have errors (like omissions, etc.) As explained above, these were probably in the original, printed work and thus were not corrected. In most cases, I found I could correct the error myself. I did find three equations where some variables were cut-off. I found I could easily deduce what the variables should be. Even with these minor errors, the Einstein section is still very informative and usable.

In conclusion, these five intellectual giants revolutionized the course of science. Be sure to get this first-ever compilation of their great works!!

+++++
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The original papers., July 13, 2003
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What makes this Stephen Hawkin book different is that it collects together in one place the original papers of the great masters, starting with Copernicus, and ending with Einstein. A generation ago, Eric Temple Bell suggested that we begin with the classics when learning math and science. Traditionally, it was thought that modern books based on the classics offered more effective ways of introducing or presenting the material, and as a result only a few students (and teachers) took the trouble of looking at the original classics, the central papers of the great masters. The true landmark papers. All the while, they collected dust on the shelves in the back rooms of libraries. Of the giants in science, five stand out, Copernicus, Galilei, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein. A chapter is reserved to each of the five. Each chapter begins with a lively biography which also serves to place the material in the context of the history of science. This is followed with the original papers themselves in translation. With this book, readers can compare Newton's laws from Principia with the fundamental papers of Einstein. It is collected in one place with commentary. Complaint: The print reproduction of Einstein's papers is not good, and some formulas unfortunately have been truncated in the reproduction. Hopefully that will be fixed in a second edition.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Impressive but not what was promoted, August 14, 2004
By 
This review is from: On The Shoulders Of Giants (Paperback)
This book contains writings of five of the greatest scientists who have ever lived. They changed the way we thought about nature and in so doing changed the way we thought about ourselves. Nicolaus Copernicus challenged the notion of a heliocentric universe. Galileo Galilei reiterated that with the added evidence of moons of other worlds. He introduced the discipline of physics into the discussion. Johannes Kepler used this new science to measure the orbits of the planets and discover HOW they spun in their orbits (he gave us the three planetary laws).

Newton used that information to explain the underlying reasons for motion, gravity, acceleration. He also built on Kepler's work in optics. Albert Einstien used the Newtonian universe as the starting point for introducing us to the relativistic nature of existence.

This is NOT a book for beginners - it contains some heavy mathematics, theorem, and the writing is at times, turgid. What I found lacking was the "commentary" by Stephen Hawking. I, like others, had presumed that it was going to be give and take...he would introduce the scientist, let us see some of their work, then offer commentary. Instead what we got were LONG tomes that, while being the essense of the genius, are hardly digestable as public reading. It is an impressive work but is not easily accessible by the layman.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read 'Principia...', for no one does it like Newton himself., May 10, 2004
By 
T. Dindorf (Atlanta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Having spent years teaching high school Physics - including the ubiquitous F=ma - I was humbled by the elegance and clarity of Newton's own derivation. There is nothing that I - or authors of textbooks I have seen - can come up with that will explain the three Laws of Motion better than Newton's own presentation. I am surprised that this is not compulsory reading in standard college Physics courses or, more importantly, in teacher training. The `Principia...' are not just of historical interest - they can still be used in education today. It makes, for example, a refreshing change to teach the 2nd Law without using the term `acceleration', focussing on momentum (`movement' in Newton's language) instead.
I'm also ashamed to admit it took me so long to notice that since Newton followed Kepler (one of the `giants' to whom Newton's statement refers), Newton derived the Law of Gravitation by combining Kepler's 3rd with his own 2nd and not, as many syllabi would have our students believe, the other way round ["derive Kepler's 3rd law..."]. Better late than never...
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular, November 12, 2002
By 
Stephen Hawking has once again written a great book for the physics hobbyist. The book is a compliation of all the greatest works of physics and astronomy, as we see it today. The book gives an overview of each scientist life and how they came to their theories. When the book begins to explore their works it could become daunting for some, but enjoyable at the same time. A must read for anyone who enjoys deep intellectual thought.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Books of Physics, November 8, 2002
This is long in coming... A great collection of the greatest works in physics that are all too often never read by modern day scientists. I have always wanted to see a history of physics course or a great books of physics course and this would be the best single volume text. I highly reccomend this for anyone interested in the history of science and the actual thoughts of the great physicists. These are not easy reading, but to see into the minds of these geniuses is enlightening. Covers scientists from Copernicus to Einstein. Truly amazing accomplishments collected into one volume. A great buy!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Paying Respect to Giants?, November 16, 2013
By 
This review is from: On The Shoulders Of Giants (Paperback)
I have posted only a few book reviews on Amazon -- for books that I like. I see no point in panning bad books, and I dislike long reviews. I am about to violate both rules.

"On the Shoulders of Giants" (OTSOG) was issued more than a decade ago. I own the fourth printing. I, like many of the 5-star reviewers I suspect, bought this book and let it sit unread in a place of honor in my bookcase. I was impressed that someone as eminent as Prof. Hawking felt compelled to edit and re-issue these texts. It is the kind of book where you say to yourself, "I will read it someday, but not now. It is too difficult. It is too fat."

I retired a year ago. About two months ago, I began a serious reading of Copernicus' "On the revolutions of heavenly spheres" from OTSOG, trying to follow Cop.'s arguments to the point where I could reproduce his calculations of Sun and Moon positions and solar/lunar eclipses. After all, that's what he was doing. Surely his Tables should yield real positions for the Sun, Moon, and wandering stars. I was appalled at how many typographical errors I was finding, often in mathematical formulas and numerical values. I could not believe that Prof. Hawking, or anyone else, had actually read and made sense out of this text. I was further surprised that I could not find a single footnote, clarification, or errata list by Prof. Hawking. All of the footnotes included are from Wallis' 1939 translation. After spending several dozen hours struggling to locate and fix errors on my own, I e-mailed Prof. Gingerich, author of "The Book that Nobody Read" and one of the world's experts on Copernicus and "De rev." He directed me to his unflattering review of OTSOG published in Nature Vol. 421, pp. 694-695 (2003). I encourage you to read his review. Suffice it to say that even Prof. Hawking's introduction to the life of Copernicus is riddled with factual errors. IMO, even Wikipedia does a better job.

I could stop here. You get my point. But I want to have a little fun. In Part 1, I will construct the mathematical opposite of OTSOG. In Part 2, I will present a hypothetical introduction to the 20th anniversary edition of OTSOG, to be released in 2022 by Prof. Hawking or his successor in the Lucasian Chair.

Part 1. Mathematical opposite of OTSOG
Let p = OTSOG
Then ~p = any LOA volume
If you don't know, LOA stands for the Library of America. LOA publishes collections of literary works by famous American authors. I have read five volumes from cover to cover (Emerson, Thoreau, Muir, Whitman, Vonnegut). Each is lovingly prepared, virtually free of typos, with an excellent chronology of the author in the back, an Index, sometimes even a list of errata in the original works that were corrected in the reprint with page and line numbers. I give LOA a grade of A+ when it comes to reproducing and re-issuing previously published works, although none are technical. I have no doubt that the person(s) in charge of each volume care deeply about their author, and their readers. They invest their time. They get it right.

For scientific reprints, the publisher I respect most is Dover. I own many Dover volumes, and to my knowledge, all are direct reproductions, or sometimes translations, of the original texts. No fooling around with Optical Character Recognition (OCR). In fact, the Einstein papers in OTSOG are scanned and reformatted versions of papers still in print in an inexpensive and attractive Dover volume. All Hawking et al. did is corrupt some of the formulas using OCR, as one 3-star reviewer here points out. (Most, but not all, of the errors pointed out by that reviewer are present in my fourth printing of OTSOG, but not in the Dover original which I own.)

Part 2. Hypothetical introduction to the 20th anniversary edition of OTSOG
NOTE: Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
"Dear Reader,
"Twenty years ago, I reissued texts by Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein, to educate the inquisitive layperson. OTSOG sold well. It spread to almost all university libraries, and many city and high school libraries.
"Some criticisms were raised about the accuracy of my historical introductions, especially regarding Copernicus. Others pointed out that I chose inferior translations, when much better translations were available, especially in regard to the Principia. Still others complained that my use of OCR corrupted many mathematical formulas, and that these new errors were not corrected by careful proofreading -- thereby rendering OTSOG useless for serious study.
"These critics, dear reader, are missing the point. OTSOG was not published to be read. It was published to be put on display. To be worshipped like an outdated religious text, a text that we revere without reading. To serve as a reminder that modern science is founded on the bedrock of myth.
"Long ago, a story circulated that a publisher shared with me a mathematical law: `The number of readers of a popular scientific book decreases by a factor of two for each mathematical formula it contains.' To tell the truth, I can't remember if this story is apocryphal or true. But it is damn good advice. I followed it when I published `A History of Time,' and it was a best-seller. (I left out `Brief', just like I left out `New' from Galileo's `Dialogues Concerning Two Sciences.' Adjectives aren't important among friends.)
"Now look at the number of formulas in `On the revolutions...' or `Principia.' There must be thousands! Two raised to the 1000th power is vastly larger than the number of elementary particles in the observable universe. The chance of even one person reading one page of OTSOG is infinitesimally small. If no one reads it, typos don't matter.
"I do have one regret, and with this 20th anniversary edition, I am in a position to fix it. This edition is just a cardboard shell, like the fake books you see in some furniture stores and restaurants to give an air of erudition. I trust that this will prevent future misunderstandings, and keep OTSOG in print for many years to come.
"Sincerely, your editor, Etc."
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Typos make the Einstein section unusable, February 26, 2003
By A Customer
On the Shoulders of Giants. ISBN 0-7264-1348-4. Stephen Hawking, ed. [2002]
I bought this book at one of the giant bookstores. The printing / production has mechanical errors which make the book publisher less credible, in the section for Einstein. Some well-known physics book publishers provide corrected pages on the Internet. Could the publisher provide some pdf files with corrections for the following pages? Are these corrections available to us?
I purchased this book just to study the papers by Einstein. Here are some transcription errors:
page 1190: 2nd equation is mal-formed.
page 1191: top equation is clipped.
page 1194: top equation is clipped.
page 1232: equation 54 is mal-formed.
page 1235: equation 59 is mal-formed..
page 1237: line 6 from bottom, an in-line expression is clipped and not understandable.
page 1239: lines 11-12 have expressions with subscripts only, but no variables.
page 1263: equation 17 is mal-formed.
According to the publicity note,
"World-renowned physicist and bestselling author Stephen Hawking presents a revolutionary look at the momentous discoveries that changed our perception of the world with this first-ever compilation of seven classic works on physics and astronomy. His choice of landmark writings by some of the world's great thinkers traces the brilliant evolution of modern science and shows how each figure built upon the genius of his predecessors. On the Shoulders of Giants includes, in their entirety, On the Revolution of Heavenly Spheres by Nicolaus Copernicus; Principia by Sir Isaac Newton; The Principle of Relativity by Albert Einstein; Dialogues Concerning Two Sciences by Galileo Galilei with Alfonso De Salvio; plus Mystery of the Cosmos, Harmony of the World, and Rudolphine Tables by Johannes Kepler. It also includes five critical essays and a biography of each featured physicist, written by Hawking himself. "
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Now We Know why Geometry is Called the Queen of the Sciences, February 26, 2008
One would think that this book's main value is as a keepsake for scientists, so as to have it as a handy reference to refer to the data actually collected by Tycho Brahe, and used by Copernicus; or to repeat the experiments of Galileo, or to have a handy reference to the equations that led Einstein to the development of relativity theory; and these would all be good reasons to buy this book. But there is another more important and even better reason to buy and read this book: and it is that it shows how each of these five geniuses, including Einstein himself, did not just put Euclidean Geometry to good effect, but relied on it until it was time for a newer mathematical paradigm to take over.

It is simply astounding how much mileage Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein got out of ordinary Euclidean geometry. In fact, it could be argued that Newton (along with Lebinitz) were forced to invent the calculus, otherwise they too presumably would have remained content to stick to Euclidean geometry. Likewise, had Malinowski and Reimann not expanded the geometry of space to n-dimensions, Einstein's progress on developing relativity could well have remained stuck in the mud. No wonder Euclidean Geometry is still referred to as the "Queen of the sciences."

Although a weighty tome, and a bit pricey, there is more here than just sentimental value. Four stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Summary of Natural Philosophy, September 22, 2004
This review is from: On The Shoulders Of Giants (Paperback)
Hawking's summary of some of the greatest works in Physics and Astronomy speaks to more than an audience of physicists and astronomers. Students of History, Mathematics, and other science buffs will benefit from and enjoy this writing. The Principia, for example, is tough reading; and it's especially so for younger audiences. This book highlights important historical facts and principles in enough depth to be beneficial but not too detailed ot be mundane.
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On The Shoulders Of Giants
On The Shoulders Of Giants by Stephen Hawking (Paperback - December 25, 2003)
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