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9 Reviews
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, May 16, 2000
This review is from: The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery (Hardcover)
Usually one finds biographies of worldwide famous scientists. There are several books talking about life and times of these celebrities. In this book Pais presents not only those but some of the remarkable scientists not widely known outside the technical community. Being a member of scientific realm and eminent physicist he knew all the 16 experts he is talking about. His personal view of each of these Geniuses of the technical world gives a unique flavor to the book. As lay but loving fan of Physics, I think this book is outstanding. Whether you want to know about the men behind the beautiful field known as Modern Physics you should read, it is an insider view.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biographies of sixteen who remade our worldview, August 26, 2000
This review is from: The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery (Hardcover)
Someone once wrote that there was more imagination in the mathematician and physicist Archimedes than in all of Homer. The arguments in favor of that statement are very strong. It took a great deal of original, abstract thought to solve the problems that Archimedes resolved. However, that pales before the level of original and abstract thinking that went into the creation of the modern models of the physical universe. Some of the confirmed results are so strange that it is simply impossible to relate them to what we see on the macro scale.
The collection of people who created these models are described in this book. Their exploits make very interesting reading, and although some could be placed in the strange genius category, most were otherwise rather ordinary. Some were devoted to their lives outside physics and others knew only physics. Some had tight partnerships with their spouses while others had tolerant spouses who accepted extra-marital affairs. While including more of the slush would have made the book more interesting to the voyeur and perhaps increased sales, the author raises the personal details only when they are needed.
The true measure of a quality biography of a scientist is that you find their lives interesting even when their science is being discussed. Such is the case here. These giants of the physical realm led interesting lives that the author describes very well in relatively few pages. The physics is also made quite interesting, in that the explanations make you appreciate their accomplishments all the more.
Given the wide variety of personalities described here, one is led to the conclusion that it takes all kinds to make a world view.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People in science., March 8, 2003
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This review is from: The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery (Hardcover)
What makes Pais' book especially compelling and captivating
is that he knew the main players in Science over the period of a lifetime. And then the unique quality of his writing! The
result is a page turner. We are given a glimps into the personal lives of Bohr, of Dirac, of Einstein, of von Neumann, of Pauli,
and of others of the major profiles in science in the twentieth century;-- and Pais offers his own thoughts on their scienceas well. Based on having worked with them...Pais also wrote landmark biographies of Bohr and Einstein. Highly recommended.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Influential 20th century physicists, June 6, 2000
This review is from: The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery (Hardcover)
Pais has previously written terrific biographies of Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. Here he writes about sixteen brilliant 20C scientists who don't quite have the same name recognition as those two, but who made towering contributions - people like Dirac and von Neumann. And as a physicist himself, he knew them personally and worked with some of them. In fluid prose he makes the excitement of their milieu and their science come alive.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and warm biographies, January 2, 2002
This review is from: The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery (Hardcover)
The physicist Abraham Pais met these scientists and developed strong human bonds with them. So, besides concise accounts of their scientific contributions, he tells us some moving, insightful and unforgettable events of their lives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great collection of biographical essays, October 2, 2007
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This review is from: The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery (Hardcover)
Abraham Pais was a physicist turned science historian, probably best known as the author of the most authoritative biography of Albert Einstein available.

Pais knew personally almost all the important physicists who participated in the quantum revolution. He is also a really honest, coherent, and more generally talented writer. These facts, along with his background in physics, make this book stand out among many, many others.

This is a collection of 16 essays on famous scientists, some quite short (e.g. the one on Weisskopf), some not so short (e.g. the one on Pauli). Almost all of these texts contain a mix of biographical information and description of scientific contributions that feels just right. Pais's stated aim was to describe not only what these people did, but also who they were, and in this he succeeds admirably.

However, Pais has chosen to be constrained by what he calls in his Introduction a "variance in [his] level of acquaintance" with important physicists. This leads to what may be termed this book's "drawbacks":

1) In some cases one is left "wanting more".

2) There are a number of very famous physicists (Werner Heisenberg comes to mind) that are prominent in their absence (apart from some second-order references).

A word of warning: given that even the longest text included in this volume is only ~ 40 pages long, Pais obviously does not attempt to flesh out the physical concepts involved, and limits himself to giving physically accurate descriptions that would, however, not qualify as explanations. This could have the consequence that some parts of the book may be unintelligible to laymen.

Minor quibbles aside, this book clearly deserves 5 stars.

Alexandros Gezerlis
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read everything by Pais, February 15, 2014
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This review is from: The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery (Hardcover)
This is one of my treasured books. Written by the doyen of scientific biography, it gives us personal details of the Greats of Science. He can do it because he knew them all personally.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book. There may be more modern viewpoints on some of its subjects., July 2, 2012
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David R. Ingham (Mountain View, Calif.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery (Hardcover)
What I first got out of this, because I was looking for it, was that the most knowledgeable people, share the common misconceptions about Schrodinger's interpretations of quantum mechanics.
Reading farther, I find it very interesting in terms of history, personalities and old physics that I had not taken the trouble to learn before. He combines his own memories and saved letters with careful survey of other sources.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book on physicists by Pais, March 30, 2010
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This review is from: The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery (Hardcover)
The book was sent in due time and is new/unused. Everything perfect. A great book for people interested in physcs and "historical physicists".
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The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery
The Genius of Science: A Portrait Gallery by Abraham Pais (Hardcover - May 25, 2000)
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