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.
In his surprise 1959 bestseller about Kepler, The Sleepwalkers, Arthur Koestler claimed that Nicolaus Copernicus' book, De Revolutionibus had very little influence on the other astronomers of his time because it was little-read.
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.
When I bought this book, I didn't realize how complementary to my Pick for Marchit would turn out to be. I thought that Poincare's "maps" referred to were his geometric depictions of deterministic chaotic systems, which he was first to discover, and the book was going to be largely about mathematics.
I was finally impelled to read "Uncle Tungsten", which had been recommended by innumerable chemist friends, because of the opportunity to meet the author at the ACS meeting in New York last month.
Until I read "Measuring America", I was only vaguely aware of the importance of surveying to the economic and political history of the United States.
In 1792, the French Academy of Sciences appointed two respected scientists to survey a north-south meridian from Dunkirk to Barcelona, for the purpose of determining the size (and shape) of the earth. Why is this important? Because it would establish an international basis for the meter, foundation of the metric system.
Many people have difficulty understanding the motivation of scientists for precedence and the recognition it brings. While there are monetary incentives for some of the protagonists in "Acid Tongues", it is more often pride and the acceptance of one's ideas that drove the rivalries of Newton vs. Leibniz, Edison vs. Tesla, Crick and Watson vs. Pauling vs. Franklin and Wilkins.
When I was a kid, my brother and I used to negotiate Saturday Los Angeles traffic on our bicycles in order to get to the Museum of Natural History of Los Angeles, where the great collection of dinosaur bones from the La Brea Tar pits were exhibited.
It goes without saying (amongst males, at least), that one can never have too many tools. Most of us probably have more screwdrivers than any other tool, both because of their utility and their high vapor pressure (like my reading glasses), and so one needs to buy more in order to make sure that one will be available when needed.