Alexander von Humboldt was the most famous scientist and explorer of his day. "I view him as one of the greatest ornaments of the age," wrote Thomas Jefferson, and he received Humboldt in the White House in 1804. Ralph Waldo Emerson celebrated Humboldt as "one of those wonders of the world," and John Muir exclaimed, "How intensely I desire to be a Humboldt " The great German poet Goethe was Humboldt's friend, and after reading Humboldt's work Charles Darwin, yearned to travel to distant lands. From Humboldt Redwoods State Park in California to Humboldthain park in Berlin, from South America's Humboldt Current to Greenland's Humboldt Glacier, numerous places, plants, and animals around the world are named after him.
Born in Berlin in 1769, the young Alexander von Humboldt moved in the circles of Romantic writers and thinkers, studied mining, and worked as an inspector of mines before his "longing for wide and unknown things" made him resign and begin his great scientific expedition. For five years, from 1799 to 1804, Humboldt traveled through Central and South America. He and his collaborator, the French botanist Aim Bonpland, journeyed on foot, by boat, and with mules through grasslands and forests, on rivers and across mountain ranges, and when Humboldt returned to Europe his coffers were full of scientific treasures. His legacy includes a sprawling body of knowledge, from the charge found in electric eels to the distribution of plants across different climate zones, and from the bioluminescence of jellyfish to the composition of falling stars.
But the achievements for which Humboldt was most celebrated in his lifetime fell short of perfection. When he climbed the Chimborazo in Ecuador, then believed to be the highest mountain in the world, he did not quite reach the top; he established the existence of the Casiquiare, a natural canal between the vast water systems of the Orinoco and the Amazon, but this had been known to local people; and his magisterial work, Cosmos, was left unfinished. All of this was no coincidence. Humboldt's pursuit of an all-encompassing, immersive approach to science was a way of finding limits: of nature and of the scientist's own self.
What Humboldt handed down to us is a radically new vision of science: one that has its roots in Romanticism. Seeking the hidden connections of things, he put his finger on the spot where nature and human art correspond. In his understanding, nature is not just an object, separate from us, to be prodded and measured, but something to which we have a deep, sensual affinity, and where the human mind must turn if it wants to truly come to understand itself.
Humboldt achieved this ambition--he was transformed by his experience of nature. He returned to Europe at peace with the person he was, and came to live in Paris for twenty years, then in Berlin, until his death in 1859--the year Darwin published On the Origin of Species.
In this concise, illuminating biography, Maren Meinhardt beautifully portrays an exceptional life lived in no less exceptional times. Drawing extensively on Humboldt's letters and published works, she persuasively tells the story of how he became the most admired scientist of the Romantic Age.
Ludwig Boltzmann's grave in Vienna's Central Cemetery bears a cryptic epitaph: S = k log W. This equation was Boltzmann's great discovery, and it contributed significantly to our understanding of the second law of thermodynamics. In Anxiety and the Equation, Eric Johnson tells the story of a man and his equation: the anxiety-plagued nineteenth-century physicist who did his most important work as he struggled with mental illness.
Johnson explains that "S" in Boltzmann's equation refers to entropy, and that entropy is the central quantity in the second law of thermodynamics. The second law is always on, running in the background of our lives, providing a way to differentiate between past and future. We know that the future will be a state of higher entropy than the past, and we have Boltzmann to thank for discovering the equation that underlies that fundamental trend. Johnson, accessibly and engagingly, reassembles Boltzmann's equation from its various components and presents episodes from Boltzmann's life--beginning at the end, with "Boltzmann Kills Himself" and "Boltzmann Is Buried (Not Once, But Twice)." Johnson explains the second law in simple terms, introduces key concepts through thought experiments, and explores Boltzmann's work. He argues that Boltzmann, diagnosed by his contemporaries as neurasthenic, suffered from an anxiety disorder. He was, says Johnson, a man of reason who suffered from irrational concerns about his work, worrying especially about opposition from the scientific establishment of the day.
Johnson's clear and concise explanations will acquaint the nonspecialist reader with such seemingly esoteric concepts as microstates, macrostates, fluctuations, the distribution of energy, log functions, and equilibrium. He describes Boltzmann's relationships with other scientists, including Max Planck and Henri Poincar , and, finally, imagines "an alternative ending," in which Boltzmann lived on and died of natural causes.
More than most of us, Mary Palevsky needed to come to terms with the moral complexities of the atomic bomb: Her parents worked on its development during World War II and were profoundly changed by that experience. After they died, unanswered questions sent their daughter on a search for understanding. This compelling, sometimes heart-wrenching chronicle is the story of that quest. It takes her, and us, on a journey into the minds, memories, and emotions of the bomb builders.
Scientists Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, Joseph Rotblat, Herbert York, Philip Morrison, and Robert Wilson, and philosopher David Hawkins responded to Palevsky's personal approach in a way that dramatically expands their previously published statements. Her skill and passion as an interlocutor prompt these men to recall their lives vividly and to reexamine their own decisions, debating within themselves the complex issues raised by the bomb.
The author herself, seeking to comprehend the widely differing ways in which individual scientists made choices about the bomb and made sense of their work, deeply reconsiders those questions of commitment and conscience her parents faced. In personal vignettes that complement the interviews, she captures other remembrances of the bomb through commemorative events and chance encounters with people who were "there." Her concluding chapter reframes the crucial moral questions in terms that show the questions themselves to be the abiding legacy we all share. This beautifully written book bridges generations to make its readers participants in the ongoing dialogue about science and philosophy, war and peace.
Mexico is a developing society that only recently has begun to fully appreciate the importance of technology to economic success. It has had no clear vision of what the role of science is of how a scientific community can be formed. Understandably, in these circumstances, careers in science still do not have the status and recognition that such professions as medicine, engineering, and law have traditionally enjoyed.
A program to train students in biomedical research was launches at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in the early 1980s as an experiment in providing the conditions necessary for fostering the growth of a scientific community in Mexico, where teaching and research have hitherto been institutionally separated. The authors, drawing on the methods and insights of anthropology, psychology, and sociology, observed the process through which the first two cohorts of students went in their training to become research scientists, in interaction with both their professors and their peers.
What this study shows is that, while the learning of specialized knowledge and techniques are necessary for becoming a scientist, they are not sufficient: the role of beliefs and values is crucial. The authors therefore focus attention on the ethos of science, the ideal model underlying the process of socialization--how it was transmitted to the students and how they assimilated it.
Their findings will be of interest to all scholars studying the relationships of science, technology, and society, especially those concerned about the special challenges underdeveloped countries face in integrating themselves into the worldwide scientific community.
A comprehensive reevaluation of Isaac Barrow (1630-1677), one of the more prominent and intriguing of all seventeenth-century men of science. Barrow is remembered today--if at all--only as Sir Isaac Newton's mentor and patron, but he in fact made important contributions to the disciplines of optics and geometry. Moreover, he was a prolific and influential preacher as well as a renowned classical scholar. By seeking to understand Barrow's mathematical work, primarily within the confines of the pre-Newtonian scientific framework, the book offers a substantial rethinking of his scientific acumen. In addition to providing a biographical study of Barrow, it explores the intimate connections among his scientific, philological, and religious worldviews in an attempt to convey the complexity of the seventeenth-century culture that gave rise to Isaac Barrow, a breed of polymath that would become increasingly rare with the advent of modern science.
A household name and unparalleled hero revered in every African American household, Benjamin Banneker was a completely self-taught mathematical genius who achieved professional status in astronomy, navigation, and engineering. His acknowledged expertise and superior surveying skills led to his role as coworker with the Founding Fathers in planning our nation's capitol, Washington, DC. His annual Banneker's Almanac was the first written by a black and outsold the major competition. In addition, he was a vocal force in the fight for the abolition of slavery. Yet, despite his accomplishments, there has been no biography of this important man--until now. Written by an author with strong ties across the Washington-Maryland-Virginia area where abolitionist societies revered Banneker, this long overdue biography at last gives the hard-earned attention this prominent hero and his accomplishments deserve.
New Edition of a Highly Regarded Reference
As the first fully updated version in almost a decade, this comprehensive compendium brings together 2400 scientists who have made important contributions to the wide world of science. Rather than a Who's-Who style laundry list, this user-friendly resource provides essential biographical information and focuses on scientific achievement. Indeed, it is as much a book about science as it is about the notable scientists who comprise the field.
Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists, Third Edition concentrates on the 'traditional pure' sciences of physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, and the earth sciences. It also covers medicine and mathematics and includes a selection of people who have made important contributions to engineering, technology, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy. Including 29 illustrations of key scientific concepts and discoveries, this definitive collection also contains helpful resources such as a pronunciation guide, cross references, quotations, a subject index, timeline of key scientific events, and list of useful Websites.
Contains More Biographies than Other Comparably Sized Titles
Written by a recognized authority in the field, the uncomplicated prose eases readers into sophisticated concepts, like abstract mathematics and modern theoretical physics. The book highlights all Nobel Prize winners and popular scientists such as Keith Campbell, Ian Wilmut, and John Nash. Compiled in A-Z style, this work is the authoritative volume of its kind with more than 200 new entries in its latest edition.
This work provides information for approximately 2850 American scientists deceased through 1920. It utilizes standard published biographical sources (biographical directories, dictionaries, and indexes), as well as obituary and similar notices for some persons not in standard sources. Arranged alphabetically by personal name, the Biographical Index includes full name, year of birth and death, scientific field(s) in which the person was active, identification by occupational category, reference to unpublished material described in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, and references to published biographical sources. All fields of science are covered, including mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, the biological sciences, psychology and anthropology, as well as some persons noted for contributions in engineering, invention, and medicine. An index of the scientists by scientific field appears at the end of the work.
Beyond its primary value as a reference tool for the location of information on particular persons, the Biographical Index also serves to identify the population of scientists in America who lived during the period from colonial times to 1920. Selection of names was based on a systematic review of certain works such as the Dictionary of American Biography and other specialized indexes such as E.S. Barr's Index to Biographical Fragments in Unspecialized Scientific Journals, obituary notices in American journals indexed in the Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers (1867-1925), lists of deceased scientists in American Men of Science, and other sources. While eminent scientists are included, a number of less notable personages also are listed. This bibliography is suitable for college and research libraries and public libraries of all sizes, and for individuals interested in the history of American science.
Because science has assumed an ever larger role in culture, scientists have become public figures, role models, and even heroes. Accordingly, scientific biography has grown steadily in popularity. Biographies of Scientists provides more than 500 sources of information on scientists for young and adult general readers and for scholars. These sources explain scientists' accomplishments in the context of the personal and career developments that made those accomplishments possible. Among the sources are encyclopedias, periodicals, and individual biographies and autobiographies of researchers in astronomy and cosmology, chemistry, earth sciences, life sciences, mathematics, medical sciences, and physics. An introduction traces the general history and themes of scientific biography, and each entry in the bibliography includes an annotation that discusses and evaluates the biographical source and indicates the most suitable readership for it. The bibliography concludes with indexes of authors, scientists who are the subjects of biographies, and scientific topics.
While working as a fur trapper in Labrador, Canada, Clarence Birdseye encountered an age-old problem: bad food and an unappealing, unhealthy diet. However, he observed that fresh vegetables wetted and left outside in the Arctic winds froze in a way that maintained their integrity after thawing. As a result, he developed his patented Birdseye freezing process and started the company that still bears his name. Birdseye forever changed the way we preserve, store, and distribute food, and the way we eat.Mark Kurlansky's vibrant and affectionate narrative reveals Clarence Birdseye as a quintessential "can-do" American inventor--his other patents include an electric sunlamp, a harpoon gun to tag finback whales, and an improved incandescent lightbulb--and shows how the greatest of changes can come from the simplest of ideas and the unlikeliest of places.