Quantum Generations

A History of Physics in the Twentieth Century

  • Engels
  • 1e druk
  • 9780691095523
  • maart 2002
  • Paperback
  • 512 pagina's
Alle productspecificaties


At the end of the nineteenth century, some physicists believed that the basic principles underlying their subject were already known, and that physics in the future would only consist of filling in the details. They could hardly have been more wrong. The past century has seen the rise of quantum mechanics, relativity, cosmology, particle physics, and solid-state physics, among other fields. These subjects have fundamentally changed our understanding of space, time, and matter. They have also transformed daily life, inspiring a technological revolution that has included the development of radio, television, lasers, nuclear power, and computers. In Quantum Generations, Helge Kragh, one of the world's leading historians of physics, presents a sweeping account of these extraordinary achievements of the past one hundred years.

The first comprehensive one-volume history of twentieth-century physics, the book takes us from the discovery of X rays in the mid-1890s to superstring theory in the 1990s. Unlike most previous histories of physics, written either from a scientific perspective or from a social and institutional perspective, Quantum Generations combines both approaches. Kragh writes about pure science with the expertise of a trained physicist, while keeping the content accessible to nonspecialists and paying careful attention to practical uses of science, ranging from compact disks to bombs. As a historian, Kragh skillfully outlines the social and economic contexts that have shaped the field in the twentieth century. He writes, for example, about the impact of the two world wars, the fate of physics under Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, the role of military research, the emerging leadership of the United States, and the backlash against science that began in the 1960s. He also shows how the revolutionary discoveries of scientists ranging from Einstein, Planck, and Bohr to Stephen Hawking have been built on the great traditions of earlier centuries.

Combining a mastery of detail with a sure sense of the broad contours of historical change, Kragh has written a fitting tribute to the scientists who have played such a decisive role in the making of the modern world.


A readable and enormously valuable book. --Graham Farmelo, Nature An ambitious one-volume history: the first comprehensive textbook to address most of the significant aspects in the intellectual history of 20th-century physics. Kragh's achievement ... is quite remarkable... For physicists who want to 'humanize' their courses, or brush up on their professional past, for those who teach the history of modern science, and for anyone fascinated with physics, I can recommend this book as an indispensable resource. --Diana Barkan, Physics World Neither a specialized academic work nor a mere popularization, Kragh's tome [is a] synthetic, deeply detailed and carefully explained survey... An impressive reference work, and a serious award-winning read. --Publisher's Weekly A sweeping survey of the development of modern physics ... wide-ranging, studiously researched, and comprehensive. --The Economist Within a century we've seen the rise of new physics, which has, however haltingly, at last begun to answer the big questions... Taken together, they're an embarrassment of riches, and Kragh has had to pare the story down severely. But he's equal to the task, and manages to cover the pantheon of 20th-century physics. --New Scientist It is a thrilling story, full of excitement, danger, surprise and beauty, and it is told with lucidity and scholarship by Helge Kragh. What he gives us in this absorbing account is the story of what could be mankind's greatest intellectual adventure to date. --Financial Times Kragh does an exceptional job of trying to cover in a single volume one of the most prolific sciences of this century. --Library Journal Compared with the popular interest books on physics ... Kragh presents appreciably more technical detail, and his estimable overview will appeal better to the active physics student. --Booklist A fine new study... Mr. Kragh manages to cover this vast canvas in less than 500 pages, leaving very little of importance out. It is amazing how concise one can be if once knows what one is talking about. --Jeremy Bernstein, Washington Times An excellent guide to the historical literature on almost any subject in the history of twentieth-century physics. --Laurie M. Brown, Physics Today Missing until now has been a relatively short, readable book that synthesizes the extensive research by historians of modern physics, to give an accurate guide to the new physics and the complex plaths by which it was developed. Quantum Generations does all this, and more ... It is hard to think of anyone better qualified to write this book. --Stephen G. Brush, American Journal of Physics A superb account of the last hundred years of physics... I very much doubt we will see a comparable history of twentieth century physics for years to come. This is a magnificent work of synthesis that cannot be too highly commended for its balance, coverage, and clarity. --Xavier Roque, Centaurus This is very good scientific history and in some measure philosophy written by someone who has an understanding of the process of scientific work. The writing is clear and largely non-technical. Although the focus is cosmology, the book will appeal to anyone with an interest in how science actually works, whether it is through the history of the philosophy. --D.R. Matravers, Contemporary Physics This book is a very ambitious and largely successful attempt to provide a one-volume history of twentieth-century physics. It is a Herculean task, and Helge Kragh is well aware of the problems and pitfalls... Incredibly enough, Kragh ... [gives] both a fair assessment of most of the major themes in this most busy and creative of centuries, and yet at the same time giving summaries of the major research developments within each of the major fields. This is no mean feat, and in fact it is a rather amazing one, so that we have here, in one volume, a wide-ranging view of many of the outstanding accomplishments of this century in physics. --Daniel M. Greenberger, ISIS

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    Dit is een uitstekend overzichtsboek over de ontwikkelingen in de natuurkunde in de 20e eeuw. Enige voorkennis is vereist, maar het is geen boek waar de lezer allerlei wiskundige berekeningen moet kunnen uitvoeren. Eigenlijk is het één groot, aansprekend en aantrekkelijk verhaal over de ontdekkingsreis die stap voor stap plaats vond, waarbij Kragh niet alleen wetenschappelijke, maar ook sociale en technische ontwikkelingen beschrijft.

    Na het boek uit te hebben, heeft de lezer een onderbouwd en breed beeld van de spectaculaire ontdekkingen in de natuurkunde. Het is een boek uit 1999, dit betekent dat er in de 18 jaar tussen toen en nu het een en ander is veranderd in kennis; een goede opvolger van dit boek is The Greatest Story Ever Told.... So Far van Lawrence Krauss (gepubliceerd in 2017 en dus uitermate actueel m.b.t. de laatste ontdekkingen).

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maart 2002
1e druk
23,3 x 15,2 x 3,2 cm
Aantal pagina's
512 pagina's
Met illustraties


Helge Kragh
Princeton University Press



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