- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (4 Jan. 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0099284324
- ISBN-13: 978-0099284321
- Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3.6 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in Twentieth-century Physics Paperback – 4 Jan 2001
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More About the Author
As its subtitle Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics indicates, this is a biography of the quirky human being and father of quarks, the brilliant American Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann. Born in New York in 1929, he is a surviving member of a great generation of physicists who rode the wave of the atomic bomb and its aftermath in theoretical physics. Gell-Mann rubbed shoulders and argued the toss with the likes of Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Richard Feynman.
George Johnson, an award-winning science writer for the New York Times and author of four other books, spent several years compiling this wonderful portrait of Gell-Mann, warts and all. Johnson certainly conveys for the general reader the brilliant, complicated, always fascinating and often exasperating man that he eventually came to like and respect.
Gell-Mann was something of a prodigy, graduating from Yale at 18 and getting his doctorate from MIT by the age of 21. Within a few years he was recognised as one of the foremost theorists in the strange world of particle physics, who studied the behaviour of subatomic particles and proposed the existence of quarks, one of the fundamental constituents of matter. For this work he was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1969.
As Johnson describes and explains, life within the highly competitive academic world of particle physics was particularly rebarbative but Gell-Mann managed to shoulder his way through to the top. A Dickensian character, he was at times a show-off and bully but also a generous polymath, who subsequently has espoused environmentalism and arms control.
Under Johnson's expert guidance (assisted by a glossary, notes and bibliography) even the general reader is guided through the complex science and life of this charming conversationalist... apologetic procrastinator and... dispenser of acid remarks--Murray Gell-Mann. --Douglas Palmer
'A dramatic and lucid biography of Gell-Mann, one of the true geniuses of the twentieth century' Daily TelegraphSee all Product Description
Inside This Book(Learn More)
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Scouring the old Manhattan telephone directories from the early years of the century, now relegated to decaying spools of microfilm in a dark corner of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street, one looks in vain for the curious appellation "Gell-Man." Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Top Customer Reviews
This biography presents the man behind the science: the prodigy who entered Yale at 15 and received his PhD from MIT at 22, the avid observer and collector of birds, obscure languages and archaeological artefacts, the competitive intellectual who dominated his field (at one point, the organizers of a wide-ranging conference reviewing progress in particle physics were thinking of asking five or six experts in different areas to present, before realizing that Gell-Mann was the best person in each field, and asking him to talk about them all), and the concerned and eloquent conservationist who memorably criticized decision-makers as thinking "anything hard to quantify [can be] set to zero [so that] a highway can be driven straight through a neighbourhood or wilderness because there is no reliable quantitative measure of damage to set against the increased cost of running the road around the outside.Read more ›
I was very impressed by the author's pedagogical powers. He has helped me to hone my understanding of many principles of particle physics. George Johnson has brilliantly exposed the unfolding of ideas that led us to our current understanding. The citation on page 301 (HC) about Richard Feynman could be applied to the author himself: << He would take it apart and put it back together so you understood it as never before >>. JG has the ability of making people understand abstract concepts without the recourse of mathematics.
The author could have recounted more mundane stories that occurred in the life of this great scientist. Gell-Mann has travelled so much and interacted with so many people that anecdotes should be pouring in this biography. My understanding is that Johnson has chosen to limit himself to the stories that were relevant to the object of inquiry more than the subject himself. Again, the science before the scientist. It is like reading a scientific biography without the equations. I actually praise this. When Gell-Mann will die there will be plenty of journalists that will pickup what was not covered here, but few will have the same talent for expounding for the general public what Murray Gell-Mann was able to achieve with his extraordinary mind.
Yet the editorial choice that was made leaves me with an unfulfilled sentiment.Read more ›
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