A book offers a history of science and the figures who helped develop its major pillars, presented in a biographical style to raise interest in the discipline.
In this “science story,” the development of four of the most important topics in the study of mathematics, chemistry, and physics—energy, entropy, atoms, and quantum mechanics—is presented with an in-depth look at the experts whose inquiries and experimentations established them. This includes the influences, upbringings, and reputations of these trailblazers as well as the not always receptive times they worked in. Energy’s origins are traced back to Galileo’s interests in Euclid and Aristotle, then up to Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and beyond. Entropy looks at the growth of Sadi Carnot and the competing work by both Rudolf Clausius and William Thomson, only to be set aside by later scientists such as James Clerk Maxwell. The atom’s discovery is told from the earliest notions in Greek culture, with its understanding through history tied to a battle between rational study and spiritual pressures. Scientists ranging from John Dalton to J.J. Thomson and Niels Bohr labored not only under the scientific burden of proof, but societal measures of acceptance as well. The quantum mechanics section examines Albert Einstein and his work up until his death as well as those who preceded him in the development of what would become quantum theory. Throughout, their research or their inspirations and interactions with one another (when historically possible) are chronicled, while simple, approachable examples of what they’re attempting to prove or disprove are demonstrated by the author. Bembenek (Calculation of the Surface Tension of Oxygen Using Molecular-Dynamics Simulations, 2006, etc.) employs a largely casual narrative tone, never talking down to his readers even when broaching big ideas. Overall, the book acknowledges that scientific theories and experimentation can be seen as boring or tedious and encourages readers to engage with the material in a manner comfortable for them. The volume suggests starting with the concepts readers feel ready to tackle while skipping certain mathematical equations or illustrations they are not yet ready for. Extensive citations and a full bibliography with thorough footnotes should give interested readers numerous reasons to revisit the personable text and seek out other works.
A superb resource for science fans or those struggling to understand the subject; an impressive fit in an age of Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson Web videos.