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Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century Paperback – 9 Jun 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, U.S.A.; Reprint edition (9 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195365569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195365566
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 2.3 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 243,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"Hargittai has carefully read the published literature and weaves useful, analytical patterns that indicate knowledge of scientific comunities while generally approving the relationship of postwar physics, mathematics, and engineerings in teh US with US cold war politics."-- Physics Today
"What a story! Five brilliant Jewish-Hungarian kids burst out of the great secondary schools of Hungary, learn their physics in Germany, and give their all to America in WWII. And after.
Across the ethnic quilt of Europe and America, the five brilliant "Martians" of this book roam, their weapon in mind --math! Istvan Hargittai, a Jewish-Hungarian like his heroes, tells the remarkable story of five immigrants, of vastly different politics, without whom American science (and the
world) would not be the same."--Roald Hoffmann, Nobel laureate, Ithaca, New York
"Surely, 'hard times provide a good condition for creativity, ' as do supportive culture, societal upheaval, intellectual ferment, and scientific revolution. Imagine then, a group of life stories woven through unique instances of all these factors. Istvan Hargittai traces the turbulent lives of five
uniquely creative scientists who survived, succeeded, and changed the world."--Arno Penzias, Nobel laureate, San Francisco
"This is an important story that needs to be told, and Hargittai tells it well."--Nature



"Hargittai has carefully read the published literature and weaves useful, analytical patterns that indicate knowledge of scientific comunities while generally approving the relationship of postwar physics, mathematics, and engineerings in teh US with US cold war politics."-- Physics Today
"What a story! Five brilliant Jewish-Hungarian kids burst out of the great secondary schools of Hungary, learn their physics in Germany, and give their all to America in WWII. And after.
Across the ethnic quilt of Europe and America, the five brilliant "Martians" of this book roam, their weapon in mind --math! Istvan Hargittai, a Jewish-Hungarian like his heroes, tells the remarkable story of five immigrants, of vastly different politics, without whom American science (and the
world) would not be the same."--Roald Hoffmann, Nobel laureate, Ithaca, New York
"Surely, 'hard times provide a good condition for creativity, ' as do supportive culture, societal upheaval, intellectual ferment, and scientific revolution. Imagine then, a group of life stories woven through unique instances of all these factors. Istvan Hargittai traces the turbulent lives of five
uniquely creative scientists who survived, succeeded, and changed the world."--Arno Penzias, Nobel laureate, San Francisco
"This is an important story that needs to be told, and Hargittai tells it well."--Nature



"Hargittai has carefully read the published literature and weaves useful, analytical patterns that indicate knowledge of scientific comunities while generally approving the relationship of postwar physics, mathematics, and engineerings in teh US with US cold war politics."-- Physics Today
"What a story! Five brilliant Jewish-Hungarian kids burst out of the great secondary schools of Hungary, learn their physics in Germany, and give their all to America in WWII. And after.
Across the ethnic quilt of Europe and America, the five brilliant "Martians" of this book roam, their weapon in mind --math! Istvan Hargittai, a Jewish-Hungarian like his heroes, tells the remarkable story of five immigrants, of vastly different politics, without whom American science (and the
world) would not be the same."--Roald Hoffmann, Nobel laureate, Ithaca, New York
"Surely, 'hard times provide a good condition for creativity, ' as do supportive culture, societal upheaval, intellectual ferment, and scientific revolution. Imagine then, a group of life stories woven through unique instances of all these factors. Istvan Hargittai traces the turbulent lives of five
uniquely creative scientists who survived, succeeded, and changed the world."--Arno Penzias, Nobel laureate, San Francisco
"This is an important story that needs to be told, and Hargittai tells it well."--Nature


"What a story! Five brilliant Jewish-Hungarian kids burst out of the great secondary schools of Hungary, learn their physics in Germany, and give their all to America in WWII Istvan Hargittai, a Jewish Hungarian like his heroes, tells the remarkable story of five immigrants of vastly different
politics, without whom American science (and the world) would not be the same."--Roald Hoffman, Nobel Laureate, Ithaca, New York
"Istvan Hargittai traces the turbulent lives of five uniquely creative scientists who survived, succeeded, and changed the world."--Arno Penzias, Nobel laureate, San Francisco
"This is an important story that needs to be told, and Hargittai tells it well."--Nature
"Hargittai's book is subtle and thoughtful."--Physics Today
Charlie Munger of WESCO Financial Corporation recommended this book at the 2007 WESCO Annual Meeting: "It is a hell of a book about five Hungarian physicists driven to the U.S. by Hitler, who contributed much to science here. I can't recommend it enough."--Charlie Munger


"What a story! Five brilliant Jewish-Hungarian kids burst out of the great secondary schools of Hungary, learn their physics in Germany, and give their all to America in WWII Istvan Hargittai, a Jewish Hungarian like his heroes, tells the remarkable story of five immigrants of vastly different politics, without whom American science (and the world) would not be the same."--Roald Hoffman, Nobel Laureate, Ithaca, New York
"Istvan Hargittai traces the turbulent lives of five uniquely creative scientists who survived, succeeded, and changed the world."--Arno Penzias, Nobel laureate, San Francisco
"This is an important story that needs to be told, and Hargittai tells it well."--Nature
"Hargittai's book is subtle and thoughtful."--Physics Today
Charlie Munger of WESCO Financial Corporation recommended this book at the 2007 WESCO Annual Meeting: "It is a hell of a book about five Hungarian physicists driven to the U.S. by Hitler, who contributed much to science here. I can't recommend it enough."--Charlie Munger
"fascinating and informative"--Chemical Heritage



"What a story! Five brilliant Jewish-Hungarian kids burst out of the great secondary schools of Hungary, learn their physics in Germany, and give their all to America in WWII Istvan Hargittai, a Jewish Hungarian like his heroes, tells the remarkable story of five immigrants of vastly different politics, without whom American science (and the world) would not be the same."--Roald Hoffman, Nobel Laureate, Ithaca, New York


"Istvan Hargittai traces the turbulent lives of five uniquely creative scientists who survived, succeeded, and changed the world."--Arno Penzias, Nobel laureate, San Francisco


"This is an important story that needs to be told, and Hargittai tells it well."--Nature


"Hargittai's book is subtle and thoughtful."--Physics Today


Charlie Munger of WESCO Financial Corporation recommended this book at the 2007 WESCO Annual Meeting: "It is a hell of a book about five Hungarian physicists driven to the U.S. by Hitler, who contributed much to science here. I can't recommend it enough."--Charlie Munger


"fascinating and informative"--Chemical Heritage


"

About the Author

István Hargittai is Professor of Chemistry and head of the George A. Olah Ph.D. School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. He is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and has lectured in some 30 countries and taught at several universities in the United States. His books include the Candid Science series of his collected interviews with famous scientists, The Road to Stockholm, and Our Lives.

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Format: Paperback
This book represents a fascinating insight into some of the greatest minds of the 20th century. The book takes you though the turbulent lives of 5 Hungarian scientists who gave so much to their fields. Some of their famous quotations which are listed near the end of the book are super. For the price, I would highly recommend this book to anybody with an interest in science.
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By Mrs G on 26 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I Bought this book for a friend who likes this sort of thing - he was very happy with it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars 21 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Budapest Golden Age moves to the United States 31 Oct. 2012
By Sean-ji - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The story is more about a group of brilliant Hungarian scientist, their personalities and how they got to be part of the Manhattan project. Lacking in science details of their accomplishment as scientist was a disappointment to me. Instead the book focuses on specific identity and personalities rooted in their Eastern European origins and Jewish culture. The best part of the book has little to do with the individuals but the historical back drop of how the relaxed - anti Semitism at the turn of the 19th century created both a cultural boon in Budapest the intellectual center of the Austrian Hungarian Empire and then a collapse with the return of anti-Semitic laws. Not a reading in science but a good read in social history and how the US benefited from being more culturally open for the period covered.
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Story of 'Martians' that Saved Democracy (during WWII, and Beyond) - Truth much Stranger than Science Fiction!!! 17 Feb. 2014
By Book & Music thief, from HI - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a highly insightful Book, that I read a couple years back (I did originally order it from AMAZON, at the time), but waited awhile to write a review (because I just started writing comments, towards the end of 2013). It tells the story of a handful of extremely gifted human beings, who were forced to flee Europe due to the Nazi persecution (on account of their Jewish heritage). István Hargittai's extraordinary Book is essential reading to anyone fascinated by this terrible historical epoch, and the amazing impact this particular handful of great minds had on Science, and subsequently, the course of World events.

These 'Martians' (so called, because their ways of thinking seemed totally 'other-worldly'), were all born in Hungary (mostly Budapest), during that country's 'Golden Age' (late 19th, early 20th Century), when many of the brightest, most luminescent Stars of the Arts & Sciences, were molded by a truly stellar Educational system (within Hungary initially), then later matriculating throughout the best Universities of Europe (especially at Gottingen, in Germany - where there seemed to be a literal meeting of the greatest scientific Minds, mainly during the 1920's).

This group of 'Martians' included:
John von Neumann = the "Living Computer' who was probably the most naturally gifted mathematician from that time period, and later became a literal father of the underlying 'Logic' forming the very foundation of the subsequent computer & artificial intelligence explosion that was just at infancy, during the late 1940's, early 1950's.

Leo Szilard = the great 'conceptualist & theoretical Dreamer' who first envisioned the possibility of creating an authentic nuclear chain reaction, and took the Lead (with Wigner), in convincing Einstein to write the historic Letter, warning Roosevelt that an Atomic Bomb was feasible (therefore, it was imperative that America/Free-World build it before the Axis powers).

Eugene Wigner = the quietly Low-key, but extraordinarily brilliant Nobel Prize winner!

Edward Teller = the controversial, but also intellectually gifted, proponent of advanced weaponry as ultimate security (i.e. he lived by one mantra 'Offence is the only defense'), also the later bane of Robert Oppenheimer's existence** (although I think there was a mutual respect between the two, if not genuine friendship, during the Manhattan Project). An extremely complex/contradictory & highly polarizing figure - still controversial into the 1980's (for his vociferous support of 'SDI/Star Wars').

Theodore von Karman = the aerospace genius, that greatly modernized America's Air-Force/ air defenses.

This is really a story of survival. intriguingly played out by highly rational human beings that started Life in a World (prior to WWI), that seemed to be on a steady road of advancement & understanding in Science, and Beyond (a continuous path of Enlightenment, if you will) ==> only to be confronted head-on, by the World gone completely Mad/ coming terribly unhinged, overnight - i.e. the Long developing rules of rationality & reason dashed to Oblivion (in most of Europe, after Third Reich domination) => Ideas & Logic completely trumped by arbitrarily imposed racial hierarchies with absolutely no scientific basis/ no validity, completely abandoning all moral precedents.

How could any logical, reasonable, 'human' beings exist in such a World?!
They did it by emigrating to those nations that still valued the free-flow of ideas (i.e. where the good/ best ideas could still be judged on their Merits alone, and eventually win the Day!)

Most of the 'Martians' came to America = Greatly helping not just the WWII effort against the Axis powers, but contributing immeasurably to the scientific Wonders* that would soon be unleashed, in the coming decades (e.g. eventually leading to beneficial technology like personal computers, medical diagnostic breakthroughs, beginning of Space exploration, cell phones, Internet. I-Pads, etc.), that everyone now takes for granted!

I think, the story of these 'Martians' is most intriguing, but also possibly somewhat forgotten here in America, unfortunately - since it was America's pluralistic democracy (imperfect as it may be), and also the USA's virtual Love of 'New Ideas' that attracted/ encouraged these Martians to settle, and make their greatest contributions here - most stayed permanently, with children, and/or grandchildren born, and raised here.

note*: of course, many would say that Atomic bombs are not Scientific Wonders - but there are two salient points here: (1) can you imagine the World if the Axis powers had the 'bomb' first (even if I could imagine, I wouldn't dare contemplate it); and (2) the 'science' underlying the atomic fission process is absolutely an incredible wonder - and thorough understanding of this process is completely essential, to being able to have further Energy advancement possibilities (perhaps leading to much safer nuclear fusion).

note**: the Great Oppenheimer Biography, titled 'American Prometheus' (by Bird & Sherwin) = also discusses Teller vs. Oppenheimer's intensely strained relations, caused by serious disagreement over building the hydrogen bomb, in the early 1950's.
Kati Marton's Book called 'The Great Escape' also presents the flight of massive talent and brainpower, from Hungary, during the War Years (including the 'Martians' but also Artists, like photographer Robert Capa, and movie director Michael Curtiz = director of 'Casablanca'!)
58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique look at a unique topic 11 Feb. 2007
By Eszter Hargittai - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the daughter of the book's author, I bring an unusual perspective to this piece, one that will give you some background on how this book came about and why you will be in for a treat when reading it.

My father knew two of the five Martians discussed in this volume (Wigner and Teller) and had expressed a great interest in the work and lives of all five (Szilard, von Neumann, von Karman in addition to the above two) throughout his life. Curiously, however, despite having written numerous books about scientists, he never intended to write a book about these five until Oxford University Press approached him about it. When he finally took up this project, he threw himself into it with zest. When the book was near completion, he met with almost all of the surviving children of the Martians, not to change anything but to get an additional impression of their personalities. A byproduct of the book was a play he wrote about Teller, which surprised even me despite being used to his occasional unusual ideas.

Looking back, the Martians were always on my father's mind, and he cherished his long-lasting personal acquaintance with Eugene P. Wigner. (Even as a child, I remember seeing the picture of the two of them taken upon their encounter at the University of Texas at Austin in 1969.) The family legend had it that we might be distant relatives, but there was never any hard evidence for that. My father started correspondence with Wigner when he was still a student, well before I was born. Actually, Wigner wrote him first after my father had published an article in a Hungarian literary magazine soon after Wigner's Nobel Prize. My father's acquaintance with Teller came much later, when he and my mother visited the Tellers in their home in Stanford in 1996.

Having read The Martians of Science, I feel as if I had become personally acquainted with all five of the people discussed in the volume. It is fascinating to see that such incredible people emerge from just one country to contribute so much to science and to the defense of the United States. It is sad that they were forced out of Hungary, where even today - while their achievements are being recognized - the reasons of their departures are often covered up. This book puts these things into proper perspective.

For an engaging, detailed, and passionate account of the lives of five incredibly important figures (regarding both science and history), I highly recommend this book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Some Secrets of Super Scientists" 4 Dec. 2007
By Russell A. Rohde MD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century", by Istavan Hargittai, Oxford Univ. Press, NY 2006. ISBN 13 978-0-19-517845-6. HC 314/240 pages includes Preface, Contents, Intro., Appendix 12 pgs., Notes 36 pgs., Biblio. 6 pgs., Chronologies 7 pgs., & Index 12 pgs. 9.5" x 6.5"

A cleverly devised treatise details five of the Worlds' most notable theoretical physicists - all began as Jewish Hungarian citizens of Budapest who, in time, migrated to the U.S., toiled collectively and separately to develop strategic defense systems including the atomic & hydrogen bombs, computers, modernized Airforce, and establishing or working at the AEC, NASA, JPL, Manhattan Project, Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, etc.

Convenient attribute of this writing is its apportionment into six chapters to reveal their progressive transition from early childhood into figures of greatness and thence onto their waning years. It reflects their family influences, societal environs, politico-economic conditions, scholastic opportunities, and acceptance into American cultural institutions as Princeton, Harvard, Berkeley, Caltech and the U.S. military.

The plethora of B & W photographs contributes enormously to the book's value as does appendix of "Sampler of Quotable Martians". Perhaps most importantly are descriptors of personal interactions amongst the Martians themselves. This book embraces exciting history, racism, psychological ploys of embattled nations & bureaucracies, and the search for peace amidst glorious and sometimes inglorious purlieus. That the author is an acclaimed writer, recognized scientist, Professor of chemistry, authored several dozen books and is personally acquainted with and interviewed several of the 'Martians' is a plus. Its a good read and the price is right.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Their knowledge is such as to be from Mars, truly. 9 Oct. 2011
By Professor Ceccano - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book provides an expansive view into the personalities, strengths, and motivations of 5 fabulous scientists (Wigner, Teller, Szilard, von Neumann, and von Karman) out of Hungary during the era of WWII. One matter of interest in the book is the coherent treatment of the story line associated with these 5 personalities. In particular it must be read by those interested in the role of science in winning WWII. I once mentioned with some irony to John Wheeler (Princeton University, & the University of Texas) regarding that role of science, that if Hitler had been serious about winning the war he would have been well advised to do other than drive the 5 Martians out of Europe and into the United States. And of course, Wheeler knowing their vast contribution to the war effort was quick to agree. I first became interested in Hargittai's writing because of his books on symmetry, but I am also interested in the history of science. He has written the definitive biography of Edward Teller. I find the historical review of the five Martians to be up to that standard.
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