Customer Reviews: From X-rays to Quarks: Modern Physicists and Their Discoveries (Dover Classics of Science & Mathematics)
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on September 30, 2007
What this book is not:
A text book
Written to explain some controversial theory
Promoting a world view or pseudo religious belief
An artful work of literature
Written for a general audience

What this book is:
A chronological narrative of the development of modern physics
A series of stories about scientist and the nature of their experiments
A tome that covers the most important physics discoveries for the era it covers

Why read this book?
I would recommend this book to anyone who studies the hard sciences
This book would nicely augment a modern physics course
Because knowing the history of science promotes real understanding
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on May 26, 2002
This is a great book on the history of quantum mechanics. I highly reccomend it. Unfortunately the book is out of print and one needs to hunt down a used book.
It begins with the discovery of X-rays in 1895 and ends with events around the early 70's. It is interesting how the technological advances of today have come about after a sudden chain of discoverires starting with just 2 discoveries that acted as sparks: xrays and radioactivity (both of which thanks to some photpgraphic film that developed without the intention of the scientist). The chronological developments are nicely intertwined.
I enjoyed how the author has written of the rigorous development of quantrum mechanics from 3 different viewpoints of schrodinger, heisenberg and dirac and how they later proved that all 3 were the same. There are great photographs of the scientists of the time also. Overall very well written with lots of stories about the featured scientists. Can finish the book in one day, it was that incaptivating (to serve as a reference, am a chemistry student).
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on January 2, 2004
Segre` has written two excellect histories for the educated non-scientist. These are not "light" reads, but they are informative and entertaining. This is the second part of the pair (the first, "From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves") and is just exciting as the first. One could almost call this work, "The Story Continues". It tells of scientists working for years on end in attempts to understand the universe and its workings. Of course, we meet those geniuses that discovered a new aspect of reality or a long-sought explanation.
What is remarkable is how these great men and women used the work of each other to further their own endeavors. The practice of documenting new find and publishing scientific journals began during this era. Exquisite writine with diagrams, photographs and illustrations.
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on November 9, 1997
Segre's style on physics is straight forward and non-intimidating. But what make this book is his stories. Emilio met and worked with many of these men. He describes their personalities attitudes and politics, and they come alive in his book. This is history the way it ought to be taught. Squisito! Bravo! Bravisimo!
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on October 3, 2009
I found this book to be a very easy and fascinating read, although with a science training it maybe that I had some advantage. The style flows very well and is not as dry as might be expected from such a text. It is clear that the author has a very personal knowledge of the field which adds a great deal to the story. The early years from 1895 to 1945 are covered in the most detail and with a passion for the subject. I particularly enjoyed the vignettes of the main names in the development of Quantum Mechanics. Generally people are familiar with their names, most such as Einstein and Rutherford having become part of popular culture. But the fascinating part of the story is how many threads came together at the right time and more importantly in the right mind to lead to the advances in Physics we now accept as fundamental to our understanding of the world around us. I learned a great deal from this section and was able to put many parts I already knew into their correct historical context.

The chapters covering the period 1945 to the 1970's (I have the 1980 version) are much more disjoint and it is clear that the whole field had mushroomed beyond the ability of one person to completely document. So this period has less clarity, although it is still quite fascinating to understand some of the interactions between the masters of their domain.

The only part of the text that became annoying is the authors veneration of the Nobel Prize winners. In most cases the winners have either stood on the shoulders of their compatriots or crushed others under their personality. Several times it is pointed out that some idea/result had been discovered well before those who are credited and honored with the discovery. The impression is given that Physicists are the only smart people in the world - there was only one Shakespeare but many people contributed to the field of Quantum Mechanics, some making big mistakes. So this may become a little irritating to readers in other fields.

Well worth the time I spent reading this book.
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on July 9, 2010
This book is based on a course Emilio Segre gave for nonspecialists at Berkeley and later delivered as lectures at the Academiea Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome. Segre published this in Italian and then translated it for this edition.

The period covered is from the 1890s to the mid 1970s. Segre was born in 1905 and died in 1989. He knew many of the Twentieth Century players and the Nineteenth Century material was fresh and interesting when he was a student.

He makes all this come to life and gives you an understanding of the experimental and theoretical basis for these developments. There are many illustrations and a sprinkling of formulas, with aditional derivations in appendices.

The chapters are essentially independent. You can skip around as you choose. Chapter 10, Enrico Fermi and Nuclear Energy is of particular interest because Segre was one of Fermi's students (as well as his biographer) and Segre worked on the plutonium and the Bomb.

In March of 1985 John Archibald Wheeler, then a professor at the University of Texas, Austin, sent Segre comments on this book, with a copy to me as editor at W. H. Freeman and Company. His letter said in part:

"... I have used this book ... in my course, Physics: Great Man Great Ideas. It is a course for undergraduates, most of whom are not science majors, but all of whom are attracted t the idea of learning something about 'how the world works.' Three factors led me to pick your book ... . First, it is written by someone who knows what he is talking about, Second, it focusses on what is important and tells the story of that something clearly. Third, people and pointed pictures give it life."

You can skip many of the formulas, but you will get more out of this book if you have seen derivatives and don't recoil from algebra. Perfect for the eager high school student or the scientist who wonders just how all these things were worked out. The book has a nice list of suggested readings.

See also, From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves by Segre and his lively autobiography A Mind Always in Motion.
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on October 12, 2014
Great book for an informative and relatively short review of the development of XX century physics - just exactly what the title says. Has a handful of interesting pictures of the main characters of the saga and should appeal to the high schooler and the layman interested in physics.
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on November 6, 2013
It is a nice history of modern physics. Certainly many times shows short biographies of individuals that are many times not discussed. Also discussions about conferences with multiple major minds were very interesting to me.

Certainly if your interested in specific personalities a biography on them specifically would likely be better than this; however, it is a nice vignette of multiple individuals.
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on December 28, 2008
In my opinion, "From X-Rays to Quarks," by Emilio Segre is one of the greatest books that I have ever read. I believe that it should be "required reading" for every student of science, and particularly physics. It presents the lives of the great scientist of the past and present, who have made such tremendous contributions to mankind through their scientific achievements, lifts them from the dry pages of history books, and makes them "Live." After reading Segre's book, these scientist seem like great friends whom you have personally and intimately known for many years and whose achievements you can never forget. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Raymond, J. Jerome --Author of "From Creation to Eternity' and "A Grand View of Existence."
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on June 12, 2007
This is a wonderful book. I'm glad it's back in print again. Highly recommended, together with "From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves".
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