The Discoveries

The Discoveries : Great Breakthroughs in 20th-Century Science, Including the Original Papers

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In this captivating and lucid book, novelist and science writer Alan Lightman chronicles twenty-four great discoveries of twentieth-century science--everything from the theory of relativity to mapping the structure of DNA.These discoveries radically changed our notions of the world and our place in it. Here are Einstein, Fleming, Bohr, McClintock, Paul ing, Watson and Crick, Heisenberg and many others. With remarkable insight, Lightman charts the intellectual and emotional landscape of the time, portrays the human drama of discovery, and explains the significance and impact of the work. Finally he includes a fascinating and unique guided tour through the original papers in which the discoveries were revealed. Here is science writing at its best-beautiful, lyrical and completely accessible. It brings the process of discovery to life before our very eyes.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 553 pages
  • 132 x 201 x 41mm | 662g
  • New York, NY, India
  • English
  • Reprint
  • Illustrations, unspecified
  • 037571345X
  • 9780375713453
  • 564,025

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An extraordinarily accessible, illuminating chronicle of the great moments of scientific discovery in the 20th century, and an exploration into the minds of the remarkable men and women behind them.
We know and read the literary masterpieces; how many of us have had the opportunity not only to read but understand the masterpieces of science that describe the very moment of discovery? The last century has seen an explosion of creativity and insight that led to breakthroughs in every field of science: from the theory of relativity to the first quantum model of the atom to the mapping of the structure of DNA, these discoveries profoundly changed how we understand the world and our place in it.
Alan Lightman tells the stories of two dozen breakthroughs made by such brilliant scientists as Einstein, Bohr, McClintock and Pauling, among others, drawing on his unique background as a scientist and novelist to reveal the process of scientific discovery at its greatest. He outlines the intellectual and emotional landscape of each discovery, portrays the personalities and human drama of the scientists involved, and explains the significance and impact of the work. Finally, he gives an unprecedented and exhilarating guided tour through each of the original papers.
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Table of contents

Introduction
A Note on Numbers

1. THE QUANTUM
—“On the Theory of the Energy Distribution Law of the Normal Spectrum,” by Max Planck (1900)

2. HORMONES
—“The Mechanism of Pancreatic Secretion,” by William Bayliss and Ernest Starling (1902)

3. THE PARTICLE NATURE OF LIGHT
—“On a Heuristic Point of View Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light,” by Albert Einstein (1905)

4. SPECIAL RELATIVITY
—“On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies,” by Albert Einstein (1905)

5. THE NUCLEUS OF THE ATOM
—“The Scattering of alpha and beta Particles by Matter and the Structure of the Atom,” by Ernest Rutherford (1911)

6. THE SIZE OF THE COSMOS
—“Periods of 25 Variable Stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud,” by Henrietta Leavitt (1912)

7. THE ARRANGEMENT OF ATOMS IN SOLID MATTER
—“Interference Phenomena with Röntgen Rays,” by W. Friedrich, P. Knipping, and M. von Laue (1912)

8. THE QUANTUM ATOM
—“On the Constitution of Atoms and Molecules,” by Niels Bohr (1913)

9. THE MEANS OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN NERVES
—“On the Humoral Transmission of the Action of the Cardiac Nerve,” by Otto Loewi (1921)

10. THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE
—“On the Physical Content of Quantum Kinematics and Mechanics,” Werner Heisenberg (1927)

11. THE CHEMICAL BOND
—“The Shared-Electron Chemical Bond,” by Linus Pauling (1928)

12. THE EXPANSION OF THE UNIVERSE
—“A Relation Between Distance and Radial Velocity Among Extra-Galactic Nebulae,” by Edwin Hubble (1929)

13. ANTIBIOTICS
—“On the Antibacterial Action of Cultures of Penicillium, with Special Reference to Their Use in the Isolation of B. Influenzae,” by Alexander Fleming (1929)

14. THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION OF ENERGY IN LIVING ORGANISMS
—“The Role of Citric Acid in Intermediate Metabolism in Animal Tissues,” by Hans Krebs and W. A. Johnson (1937)

15. NUCLEAR FISSION
—“Concerning the Existence of Alkaline Earth Metals Resulting from Neutron Irradiation of Uranium,” by Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann (1939) and
—“Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: A New Type of Nuclear Reaction,” by Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch (1939)

16. THE MOVABILITY OF GENES
—“Mutable Loci in Maize,” Barbara McClintock (1948)

17. THE STRUCTURE OF DNA
—“Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids,” by James D. Watson and Francis H. C. Crick (1953) and
—“Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate,” by Rosalind E. Franklin and R. G. Gosling (1953)

18. THE STRUCTURE OF PROTEINS
—“Structure of Hæmoglobin,” by Max F. Perutz, M. G. Rossmann, Ann F. Cullis, Hilary Muirhead, Georg Will, and A. C. T. North (1960)

19. RADIO WAVES FROM THE BIG BANG
—“A Measurement of Excess Antenna Temperature at 4080 Mc/s,” by Arno A. Penzias and Robert W. Wilson and
—“Cosmic Black-Body Radiation,” by Robert H. Dicke, P. James E. Peebles, Peter G. Roll, and David T. Wilkinson (1965)

20. A UNIFIED THEORY OF FORCES
—“A Model of Leptons,”" by Steven Weinberg (1967)

21. QUARKS: A TINIEST ESSENCE OF MATTER
—“Observed Behavior of Highly Inelastic Electron-Proton Scattering,” by M. Breidenbach, J. I. Friedman, H. W. Kendall, E. D. Bloom, D. H. Coward, H. DeStaebler, J. Drees, L. W. Mo, and R. E. Taylor (1969)

22. THE CREATION OF ALTERED FORMS OF LIFE
—“Biochemical Method of Inserting New Genetic Information into DNA of Simian Virus 40,” by David A. Jackson, Robert H. Symons, and Paul Berg (1972)

EPILOGUE

Notes
Abridgments of Papers
Acknowledgments
Permission Acknowledgments
Index
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Review quote

"Engaging. . . . Masterly. . . . Intimate. . . . [Lightman's] enjoyment of the material shines through." -The Washington Post "Lightman's map of 20th century science beautifully conveys the human drama of discovery." -American Scientist "An intriguing mix of the famous and unfamiliar." -The Boston Globe "Lightman's introductions to the discoveries are, collectively, an outstanding primer on the development of science in the twentieth century."-The Nation
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About Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and educated at Princeton and at the California Institute of Technology, where he received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics. An active research scientist in astronomy and physics for two decades, he has also taught both subjects on the faculties of Harvard and MIT. Lightman's novels include Einstein's Dreams, which was an international best seller; Good Benito; The Diagnosis, which was a finalist for the National Book Award; and Reunion. His essays have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, Nature, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker, among other publications. He lives in Massachusetts, where he is adjunct professor of humanities at MIT.
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158 ratings
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3 22% (34)
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