Top critical review
8 people found this helpful
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.