The Atom in the History of Human Thought

The Atom in the History of Human Thought

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The idea of the atom - the ultimate essence of physical reality, indivisible and eternal - has been the focus of a quest that has engaged humanity for 2,500 years. That quest is captured in The Atom in the History of Human Thought. Here is a panoramic intellectual history that begins in ancient Greece, ranges across the entire span of Western philosophy and science, and ends with the first direct visual proof of the atom's existence, just ten years ago. Bernard Pullman deftly captures the richness and depth of this remarkable debate, giving us not only the ideas of philosophers, church leaders, and scientists, but also the historical and social context from which these thoughts evolved. We have marvelous accounts of the work of such thinkers as Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas and Maimonides, Galileo and Descartes, Newton and Einstein - indeed, virtually every major philosopher of Western civilization, with excursions into the Hindu and Arab world - all presented against the backdrop of history. But perhaps most fascinating is the gradual shift in the book from a philosophical and religious perspective to a scientific perspective, especially in the 19th century, as science begins to dominate how humanity understands the world. Thus a book that begins with pre-Socratic philosophers such as Democritus and Empedocles ends with nuclear physicists such as Werner Heisenberg and Richard Feynman, and with a very different world view. Ably translated by Axel Reisinger, this is a vibrant look at humanity's search to understand the ultimate nature of physical reality, a quest that has spanned the entire course of Western more

Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 156.5 x 233.7 x 30.7mm | 648.65g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 24 line illustrations
  • 0195150406
  • 9780195150407

Review quote

"Under the guise of tracing the ever-changing fate of atomism from antiquity to our time, Professor Pullman reveals the fascinating story how a key concept of modern science gradually emerged out of an intense interplay between physical science, philosophy, theology, and personal presuppositions. An engrossing and civilizing work."--Gerald Holton, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics & Professor of History of Science, Harvard University"Bernard Pullman has given us a precious parting gift: a finely wrought and readable account of the greatest of human discoveries--the coaxing out, through deep thought and ingenious experiment, of the nature of atoms."--Roald Hoffman, Professor of Chemistry, Cornell University"The story of the atomic theory of matter lends itself better than almost any other historical journey to a grand panoramic approach to the history of scientific ideas Pullmanfollows the ideas of the atom through the long period of 2500 years since the notion of an indivisible fundamental constituent of matter was first formulated by pre-Socratic Greek thinkers He is at his best when dealing with recent developments in the physics and chemistry of atoms and nuclei, where he leaves no loose threads unexaminedThere is thus, implicit in this work, an urge to connect with the past, to construct a narrative of progress, and to week out mistakes and missteps. Yet, it is an eminently readable and enjoyable book, which affords perspicacious insights into one of the most persisting scientific problems." -- scienceshow more

About Bernard Pullman

Bernard Pullman was Professor of Quantum Chemistry at the Sorbonne and Director of the Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique. He died in 1996. Axel Reisinger is a Senior Principal Physicist at Sanders, a Lockheed Martin Company. He lives in Amherst, New more

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