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On the Shoulders of Giants: The Great Works of Physics and Astronomy Hardcover – 22 Sep 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Perseus Books; New edition edition (22 Sept. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762418982
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762418985
  • Product Dimensions: 25.6 x 19.3 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,140,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Hawking is Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which was an international bestseller. His other books for the general reader include A Briefer History of Time, the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universe and The Universe in a Nutshell.

In 1963, Hawking contracted motor neurone disease and was given two years to live. Yet he went on to Cambridge to become a brilliant researcher and Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. Since 1979 he has held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton in 1663. Professor Hawking has over a dozen honorary degrees and was awarded the CBE in 1982. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Science. Stephen Hawking is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein.

Product Description

About the Author

Stephen Hawking's ability to make science understandable and compelling to a lay audience was established with the publication of his first book, "A Brief History of Time," which has sold nearly 10 million copies in 40 languages. Hawking has authored or participated in the creation of numerous other popular science books, including "On the Shoulders of Giants" and "The Illustrated On the Shoulders of Giants."

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
Nicolaus Copernicus, a sixteenth-century Polish priest and mathematician, is often referred to as the founder of modern astronomy. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Graham Jeffery on 22 Oct. 2004
Format: Hardcover
My daughter is just starting A Levels, with an expressed career interest in astrophysics. I thought this might be a great present. It probably still is, but I found many of the illustrations to be trite. And the typesetting of the (not extensive) mathematics in Einstein's paper is shockingly bad! With the advances in typesetting technology (TeX, etc), the publisher really should have done better.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There was a lot to learn about great astronomers, I recommend it to anyone who is interested in astronomy and how great astronomers managed to observe the universe through their simple telescopes.
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By 1978BAZZ on 19 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover
The universe is opened in style "On the shoulders of giants" the illustrations are incredible opens so many questions would like to see a part 2 second edition
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Deeply disappointed. 3 Sept. 2007
By Harold H. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In Brief -- This is an illustrated version of "On the Shoulders of Giants". This book is not, however, "On the Shoulders of Giants" with some additional illustrations. There are pretty illustrations, which are largely irrelevant, but they replace more than 80% of the text and most of the useful illustrations that are contained in the original book. Whereas the original contains complete versions of works such as Galileo's Dialogs and Newton's Principia, this book contains only excerpts from these works, augmented with largely useless illustrations, but missing the useful diagrams from the original book.

In more detail -- This book consists of five sections, covering the lives and some of the science of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Einstein. Each section begins with a brief (10-12 page) discussion of the scientist's life and an outline of his work and its importance. It is followed by a 35-40-page section that contains one or more excerpts from their scientific works. Each chapter is illustrated with paintings or drawings that illustrate the life and times and other general aspects of their work. All well and good, but I was disappointed with this book for several reasons, namely:

1) While Stephen Hawkins name is prominently displayed, it is clear that he had relatively little to do with this book. It is misleading to highlight his name in large type on the spine of the book and only state on the dust jacket that he was an editor and provided commentary. Other editors are mentioned, but not named. Undoubtedly, there were many who purchased the book because of his association with it, not realizing that his actual contributions were limited
2) While there are illustrations, they in no way support the text. This is especially true for the sections that came from Newton's Principia. The Principia is based completely on complex geometric proofs. The ABCs of the text are included, but not the copious diagrams of the original, making these sections virtually useless for someone who wishes to follow Newton's line of reasoning. The same is true for the other sections of the book. Instead of useful diagrams the editors have included things like: photographs of the University of Padua, murky drawings from period books that do not illustrate any of the text, paintings of the Hubble space telescope and the Mariner 10 spacecraft and paintings (photographs in the case of Einstein) of the scientists (which are at least relevant to the historical portions of the text). It is clear that these illustrations were chosen for their artistic appeal and were included to make an illustrated book. It would have been much better if these illustrations actually helped to explain the text. Better still would have been the inclusion of the original diagrams from the books and papers being abstracted.
3) The original, non-illustrated, version of this book is five times longer than this version. It is much longer because contains the complete translations of several of the most critical scientific works ever written. (Because of the numerous illustrations, many of which are half or full page, the text is actually considerably less than 1/5 that of the original version of the book.) Since the illustrations included in this version do nothing to support the clarity of the text, they are a poor tradeoff for the complete works that are provided in the original, non-illustrated, version of this book.
4) Because of the pictures, which are interspersed throughout the book, it was necessary to utilize high gloss paper throughout. This made it difficult for me to read. Since the illustrations are not supportive of the text, their inclusion and the resulting use of high gloss paper made the illustrations, in my opinion, somewhat of a detriment.
5) The original scientific texts are useful for someone who wants to get a flavor of the original, but it is not as illuminating as a good physics text, especially since the diagrams of the original publications are missing.

This book is best suited for someone who wants a coffee table book (albeit a thin one), with some pretty pictures, about 50 pages of historical information and a flavor of what the original texts contained. I am giving the book three stars because of its appeal to this audience. The texts of the excerpts from the original publications are useful, although its usefulness is diminished by lack of the diagrams that were in the original publications. The texts of the scientific works were not, however, completely useless. For instance, I did get a better appreciation of Copernicus's work from this book. He did more than just make a correct guess about the organization of the solar system. The excerpts from his book show that he was a great physicist for his time, and was fully cognizant of the reasons why it was previously assumed that the sun and other planets revolved around a stationary earth, and he made an attempt to logically refute this belief. Also, the complete works in question are very difficult to follow; so brief excerpts are all that many readers would want. This version is thus better suited for them than the much larger, but much more complex, original version of "On the Shoulders of Giants".

Scientists and those interested in the history of science will probably be disappointed because they have read this history in more detail elsewhere and they will find the lack of diagrams a severe deficiency. There are much better histories of science available (for instance, Gribbin's, The Scientists). Those who want the complete versions of the famous books that are included in the original version will also be disappointed in this version. Thus, if you want more of the original science, check out the original version of this book before you buy this one. You will probably find that it is better suited to your needs.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By Alwyn Scott - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As the historical development of gravitational theory is of interest to me, I bought this book impulsively from Barnes & Noble, while getting a cup of coffee. "Illustrated" it is, and beautifully so, and the concept is interesting. For five brilliant scientists each of whom has contributed to our understanding of celestial dynamics, Hawking provides a brief introduction before presenting translations of representative portions of their work. Although many of the illustrations are works of art, some are not very informative, chosen perhaps for visual appeal rather than pedagogical utility. Specific comments are as follows. Copernicus: excellent short bio and explanation of his contributions. Galileo, ditto. Kepler, ditto. Newton, ditto. Einstein: strangely, the biographical sketch here is thin, many of the figures seem irrelevant, and the technical translation is marred by typographical errors. This is strange, because much effort went into the production of this book, so it would seem appropriate to have had someone with scientific knowledge look over the proofs and mark obvious errors. It is also irritating that many different type styles are used for the equations, giving the impression that the production editor sloppily copied directly from the original papers.

Although I enjoyed reading this book and learned from it, the publishers should clean it up for a second printing.

Alwyn Scott

American market 4 May 2012
By reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was redone for the American market and in doing so most of the real content of the book was lost. Stick to the full version if you want the real nitty grity of the science of these great men. I have it in my collection of 7000 books but will have to buy the full version to really come to grips with some of the Mathematics. On the other hand the illustrations were great and should keep students amused. It came from Amazon and so will the full version once I save the money.
Fun Book 21 Mar. 2015
By Vimar - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a brilliant buy.
Three Stars 22 Jun. 2015
By mike - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
great for students
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