Despite a generous index of biographical sketches, a glossary of scientific terms, and copious footnotes, this is still...




Astrophysicists are people, too. And that’s not always a good thing.

Such was the harsh lesson learned by 20-year-old prodigy Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar—known as Chandra—when on Jan. 11, 1935, he rose before the august Royal Astronomical Society in London to announce his discovery that certain oversized stars would inexorably collapse into themselves to the point of nothingness. The young Indian graduate student expected to be lauded for his achievement. Instead, the most renowned British astrophysicist of the day, Sir Arthur Eddington, who had been Chandra’s inspiration and mentor, promptly ridiculed the finding, setting off a feud with the stunned Chandra that effectively halted his work on the subject for 40 years. In this scholarly, richly footnoted story, Miller (History and Philosophy of Science/University College, London; Einstein, Picasso, 2002) focuses on Chandra’s long struggle to overcome the setback of Eddington’s attack. (Chandra was later recruited by Enrico Fermi to the faculty at the University of Chicago, and in 1983 he received the Nobel Prize.) But in the process, he also introduces us to astrophysics research from the 1930s to the present, and to the often prickly, turf-guarding scientists behind them. The portraits of Edward Teller, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Niels Bohr, along with many others, are fascinating as we follow their gaze from the stars deep in space to the microcosmos of atomic particles. Their realization that the answers to the life and death of stars could be found in the protons and electrons of the atom led to breathtaking discoveries—finally affirming Chandra’s theory on “black holes” as well as on the creation of the atomic and hydrogen bombs. Chandra himself chafed throughout his life under the prejudice he suffered as a nonwhite scientist.

Despite a generous index of biographical sketches, a glossary of scientific terms, and copious footnotes, this is still dense reading, aimed more at the scientifically inclined than the general reader. The rewards for the diligent, however, are many and profound.

Pub Date: April 25, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-34151-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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