History/Philosophy

The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance

A copy of the Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements hangs in virtually every classroom in which chemistry is taught, and it represents one of the great accomplishments of science. I can think of no other such concise and profound consolidation of scientific knowledge.

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

I am old enough to remember the 1954 hearings in the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer, but I was too young to understand that there was more to this story about a supposed Communist in the nuclear weapons program than was being reported in the Los Angeles newspapers of the time.

Fritz Haber: Chemist, Nobel Laureate, German, Jew

Haber's name is found in the indices of a large fraction of all books about chemistry. Introductory students learn about the Haber process, by which we (still) synthesize ammonia from nitrogen in the air. Physical chemistry always includes the Haber cycle, a systematic approach to thermochemistry.

Elegant Solutions: Ten Beautiful Experiments in Chemistry

Choose ten exemplary chemistry experiments. The synthesis of nylon? Bakelite, the first man-made polymer? The structure of DNA? The fixing of nitrogen? The discovery of buckyballs? Sorry, but none of those made the list of veteran science writer Philip Ball. Mr. Ball was looking for something other than mere importance.

Annus Mirabilis: 1905, Albert Einstein,and the Theory of Relativity

John and Mary Gribbin have written a book with a somewhat broader scope than Rigden's on the same topic. The first 138 pages of constitute a brief biography in three chapters: The First Twenty-Five Years, The Annus Mirabilis, and The Last Fifty Years.

Einstein 1905: The Standard of Greatness

This year marks a century since Albert Einstein published five of the most influential papers in the history of science, all submitted between March and September of 1905.

The Curious Life of Robert Hooke: The Man Who Measured London

Robert Hooke's name is familiar to most of us only because of "Hooke's Law", f = - kx, which describes the potential for a harmonic oscillator. I became aware of some of the other contributions of this remarkable man by reading one of Lisa Jardine's previous books, "Ingenious Pursuits", which was my pick for May, 2000.