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From X-rays to Quarks: Modern Physicists and Their Discoveries (Dover Classics of Science & Mathematics) Paperback – June 5, 2007
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About the Author
Emilio G. Segrè: The History of Physics
Emilio Segrè (1905–1989) became, in 1928, the first student to earn a doctorate in physics at The University of Rome under Enrico Fermi. A decade later, restrictive fascist laws against Jews in academic positions in Italy turned Segrè into an academic refugee — he settled in Berkeley where, in 1955, with colleague Owen Chamberlain, he proved the existence of the antiproton, a negatively charged proton that destroys itself as well as the matter it strikes. In 1959, Segrè and Chamberlain shared the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on antiproton.
From 1943 to 1946, Segrè worked as a group leader on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. In his 1970 book about Fermi, Segrè recalled a crucial atomic test in the New Mexico desert: "In a fraction of a second, at our distance, one received enough light to produce a sunburn. I was near Fermi at the time of the explosion, but I do not remember what we said, if anything. I believed that for a moment I thought the explosion might set fire to the atmosphere and thus finish the earth, even though I knew that this was not possible."
It always seems an opportunity that should not be missed when a major participant in the world of science takes the time and makes the effort to write about his field for a general audience. At Dover we were very pleased to acquire from Emilio Segrè's heirs the rights to publish his outstanding two-volume history of physics written for the general reader and historian of science: From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves: Classical Physicists and Their Discoveries and From X-Rays to Quarks: Modern Physicists and Their Discoveries, both reprinted by Dover in 2007.
Top Customer Reviews
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
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).
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book for an informative and relatively short review of the development of XX century physics - just exactly what the title says. Read morePublished 21 months ago by J. R. G. Mendonca
Is one of the best histories of radioactivity I know. First hand, as Emilio Segré was one of the protagonists, and very well writen.Published on March 20, 2014 by Jose M lopez Sancho
It is a nice history of modern physics. Certainly many times shows short biographies of individuals that are many times not discussed. Read morePublished on November 6, 2013 by M. J.
In my opinion, "From X-Rays to Quarks," by Emilio Segre is one of the greatest books that I have ever read. Read morePublished on December 28, 2008 by Raymond J. Jerome
In addition to reading this excellent book I recommend reading "Thirty Years That Shook Physic" by George Gamow too.Published on December 23, 2008 by Mendoza