On the beauty of science: a Nobel laureate reflects on the universe, God, and the nature of discovery

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"Does the scientist's world conform to the real one? Nature usually answers this question with an emphatic 'No!' It has in fact been said that Nature delights in saying 'No' and only with the greatest reluctance condescends to reveal her secrets. For this reason the scientist's life is not an easy one. However, on those rare occasions when his world does conform to the real one, and for this reason does throw light on the world around us, the rewards and the satisfactions are great and more than compensate for the many disappointments." -- Herbert A. Hauptman. In this memoir of a long, distinguished career devoted to scientific research, world-renowned mathematician Herbert A. Hauptman recounts both the joys and the disappointments of his lifelong quest to induce nature to "reveal her secrets". In 1985, Dr. Hauptman received the greatest honour that any scientist can receive, when the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded him and his colleague, Jerome Karle, the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Drs Hauptman and Karle were recognised "for their outstanding achievements in the development of direct methods for the determination of crystal structures". This work has proved to be of the greatest importance because it relates molecular structure to biological activity, thus permitting a better understanding of life processes and making possible the development of many new disease-fighting drugs. Dr. Hauptman vividly describes the difficulties of the mathematical work that led up to his discovery as well as his joy when he finally hit upon! a method of unravelling the structure of crystals. In addition, he provides a personal account of his background, family, his formative studies in high school and college, and the experiences that motivated him to pursue a life devoted to scientific research. A strong advocate of the naturalistic worldview and a critic of supernaturalism in any form, he reflects on the alleged compatibility of science and religion and emphasises the importance of scientific understanding for contemporary civilisation. Complete with an appendix containing the original monograph (co-authored with Jerome Karle), which became the basis for their Nobel Prize-winning work, this fascinating and moving memoir offers important insights into the nature of scientific research and the value of the scientific outlook on life.

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Contents

My Youth as a Scientist
7
The Crystallographers Challenge
23
How God Hurts Science
43
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Herbert A. Hauptman is a world-renowned mathematician who pioneered and developed a mathematical method that has changed the whole field of chemistry. For this work he was recipient of the 1985 Nobel Price in chemistry. With this book Dr. Hauptman brings his highly sophisticated knowledge of mathematics and his many years of exploration in higher mathematics to the advantage of secondary school audience.

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