Martians of Science

Martians of Science : Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century

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If science has the equivalent of a Bloomsbury group, it is the five men born at the turn of the 20th century in the same neighborhood in Budapest: Theodore von Karman, Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner, John von Neumann, and Edward Teller. Through immigration from Hungary to Germany to the United States, they remained friends and continued to work together and influence each other throughout their lives. As a result, their work was integral to some of the most important scientific and political developments of the 20th century. They were an extraordinary group of talents: Wigner won a Nobel Prize in theoretical physics without ever having taken a formal college-level physics course, Szilard was the first to see that a chain reaction based on neutrons was possible but left physics to try to restrict nuclear arms, von Neumann could solve problems in his head for which most people needed computers, von Karman became the first director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, and Teller was the father of the hydrogen bomb, whose name is now synonymous with the controversial "Star Wars" defense initiative of the 1980s. Each was fiercely opinionated and politically active, reactionaries against the fascism and anti-Semitism with which they had grown up. Istvan Hargittai, as a young Hungarian physicist, was able to get to know these great men in their later years, and the depth of information and human interest in this book is the result of his personal relationships with the subjects, their families and their more

Product details

  • Paperback | 368 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 27.94mm | 589.67g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 26 b&w halftones, 56 line illustrations
  • 0195365569
  • 9780195365566
  • 553,759

Review quote

"What a story! Five brilliant Jewish-Hungarian kids burst out of the great secondary schools of Hungary, learn their physics in Germany, and give their all to America in WWII Istvan Hargittai, a Jewish Hungarian like his heroes, tells the remarkable story of five immigrants of vastly different politics, without whom American science (and the world) would not be the same."--Roald Hoffman, Nobel Laureate, Ithaca, New York"Istvan Hargittai traces the turbulent lives of five uniquely creative scientists who survived, succeeded, and changed the world."--Arno Penzias, Nobel laureate, San Francisco"This is an important story that needs to be told, and Hargittai tells it well."--Nature"Hargittai's book is subtle and thoughtful."--Physics TodayCharlie Munger of WESCO Financial Corporation recommended this book at the 2007 WESCO Annual Meeting: "It is a hell of a book about five Hungarian physicists driven to the U.S. by Hitler, who contributed much to science here. I can't recommend it enough."--Charlie Munger"fascinating and informative"--Chemical Heritage"show more

About Istvan Hargittai

Istvan Hargittai is Professor of Chemistry and head of the George A. Olah PhD School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. He is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and has lectured in some 30 countries and taught at several universities in the United States. His books include the Candid Science series of his collected interviews with famous scientists, The Road to Stockholm, and Our Lives."show more

Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. Arrival and Departure ; 2. Turning Points in Germany ; 3. Second Transition: to the United States ; 4. To protect and defend: World War II ; 5. To Deter: Cold War ; 6. Being Martian ; Epilogue ; Greatness in Science ; Had They Lived ; Conclusion ; Appendix: Quotable Martians ; Notes ; Select Bibliography ; Annotated Name Index ; Subject Indexshow more

Rating details

45 ratings
3.68 out of 5 stars
5 22% (10)
4 38% (17)
3 31% (14)
2 4% (2)
1 4% (2)
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