on 16 February 2002
"Thirty years that shook physics: The story of quantum theory ." is a well written exposition of the period between around 1900 to 1930 when so called "classical physics" was pushed aside by quantum physics. Prior to this period all theories were based on continuous phenomena. During this period experimental evidence and theoretical discoveries forced physicists to re-write the text books in terms of phenomena that could only occur in discrete steps, quanta. This was in many respects a painful period for some physicists, who had their prior understandings shattered by the revolutionary new ideas that were produced. Dr Gamow was an "insider" for some of this change and writes with authority and a personal perspective that make this an informative, accessible and interesting read.
This is not just a history of the subject with no "meat", and it is not a scientific treatise either. It is a historical trip through this quantum revolution giving important experimental evidence to support the developing ideas, so that the reader can follow along with the logical developments and see why it was necessary to dump classical physics and take up the rather strange ideas of quantum physics. The book contains several equations and a few partial derivatives, but this should not deter the less mathematically inclined reader.
Leslie Green CEng MIEE
on 1 June 2003
A reprinted Dover edition of a lovely set of biographies of the physicists of the Golden Period, from the pen of George Gamow. The original 1966 edition has been out of print for a number of years. This 1985 edition is beautifully reproduced, and it includes fascinating pictures, sketches, and poems, done by Gamow himself. He was born in Odessa, in what was then Russia, --before the Soviet Union. The story of his escape to the West is straight out of a thriller. Only it is real! Later in the US, Gamow was referred to by a journalist,--- some time during the Cold War, as "the only scientist in America with a real sense of humor". With his lovely books, we have now all come to experience how Gamow can take the most technical stuff and make it simple. Fun too! The book:--Intellectual treats, whimsy, but deep. It contains penetrating and personal biographies of Niels Bohr, Paul Ehrenfest, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg, Albert Einstein, and recollections from the conferences in the 1930ties in Copenhagen, Brussels, and in the Solvay Institute. Illustrated with lovely drawings by Gamow himself. A book with pictures and conversations! Much of it can be understood by a child, and other parts might require a little concentration. All of it is great fun. The author Gamow started in nuclear physics, during the Golden Age of Physics, worked with Niels Bohr, then later in the US, on the Manhattan Project during WWII, and after the war, he was professor in Boulder Colorado. He has a building on campus named after him! The books he wrote are pearls, and they have been equally popular with my parent's generation as with mine. Luckely some have been reprinted! Other Gamow titles: Biography of Physics, Atomic Energy [dedicated to the hope of lasting peace], Physics of the Strapless Evning Gown,...We are lucky that Dover has reprinted some of them. Gamow's list of scientific accomplishments includes a 1948 landmark paper on the origin of chemical elements, the Big Bang model, and later work with F. Crick on DNA and genetic coding.-- Do more Gamow editions, Dover!