THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING A PHYSICIST by Victor F. Weisskopf

THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING A PHYSICIST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Essays on science and scientists (mostly physics and physicists) by a grand old man of physics. Born into a cultured Jewish family in 1908 Vienna, Weisskopf learned physics from Born, Bohr, Dirac, and Pauli. In due course, he fled Europe, arriving first at the Univ. of Rochester, then Los Alamos and finally MIT, interspersed with a stint as director of CERN. In short, his has been a wonderfully rich and productive career that can be summed up in his comment to students: ""There are two things that make my life worth living: Mozart and quantum physics."" One would have liked more of these personal references, because Weisskopf not only writes well but brings compassion and sensitivity to his commentary. For example, there are portraits of Pauli and Heisenberg here that do much to endear the formidable Pauli to readers and to restore luster to the image of Heisenberg, often tarnished as a loyal German under the Nazis. Instead, Weisskopf has chosen to be less autobiographical and more philosophical, reprinting essays written over the years that emphasize his strong antinuclear stance, his concerns over technology and ""spiritual pollution,"" and his belief that science needs always to be tempered by art and other dimensions of life. There are, too, summaries of modern physics, unsolved problems, the state of particle physics, and cosmology theory. All well done. . .but still leaving the reader hungry for more details about Weisskopf the man.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1988
Publisher: W.H. Freeman