Quantum Generations: A History of Physics in the Twentieth Century

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Princeton University Press, Mar 24, 2002 - Science - 494 pages

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.

 

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Quantum generations: a history of physics in the twentieth century

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Kragh, a Danish historian of science, has written many important works on this subject, among them Cosmology and Controversy: the Historical Development of Two Theories of the Universe. His new book ... Read full review

Contents

FindeSiècle Physics A World Picture in Flux
3
The World of Physics
13
Physics Journals
19
A Japanese Look at European Physics
22
Discharges in Gases and What Followed
27
A New Kind of Rays
28
From Becquerel Rays to Radioactivity
30
Spurious Rays More or Less
34
Cosmonumerology and Other Speculations
221
Milne and Cosmophysics
223
The Modern Aristotelians
226
Physics and the New Dictatorships
230
Aryan Physics
236
Physics in Mussolinis Italy
238
Physics Dialectical Materialism and Stalinism
240
Brain Drain and Brain Gain
245

The Electron before Thomson
38
The First Elementary Particle
40
Atomic Architecture
44
Other Early Atomic Models
48
Rutherfords Nuclear Atom
51
A Quantum Theory of Atomic Structure
53
The Slow Rise of Quantum Theory
58
Early Discussions of the Quantum Hypothesis
63
Einstein and the Photon
66
Specific Heats and the Status of Quantum Theory by 1913
68
Physics at Low Temperatures
74
Kammerlingh Onnes and the Leiden Laboratory
76
Superconductivity
80
Einsteins Relativity and Others
87
Einsteinian Relativity
90
From Special to General Relativity
93
Reception
98
A Revolution that Failed
105
Electron Theory as a Worldview
108
Mass Variation Experiments
111
Decline of a Worldview
114
Unified Field Theories
116
Physics in Industry and War
120
LongDistance Telephony
123
Vacuum Tubes
126
Physics in the Chemists War
130
From Revolution to Consolidation
137
Science and Politics in the Weimar Republic
139
International Relations
143
The Physics Community
148
Zeitgeist and the Physical Worldview
151
Quantum Jumps
155
Heisenbergs Quantum Mechanics
161
Schrödingers Equation
163
Dissemination and Receptions
168
The Rise of Nuclear Physics
174
Quantum Mechanics and the Nucleus
177
Astrophysical Applications
182
1932 Annus Mirabilis
184
From Two to Many Particles
190
Surprises from the Cosmic Radiation
193
Crisis in Quantum Theory
196
Yukawas Heavy Quantum
201
Philosophical Implications of Quantum Mechanics
206
Against the Copenhagen Interpretation
212
Is Quantum Mechanics Complete?
215
Eddingtons Dream and Other Heterodoxies
218
Intellectual Migrations
249
From Uranium Puzzle to Hiroshima
257
More than Moonshine
261
Toward the Bomb
265
The Death of Two Cities
269
Progress and Problems
277
Nuclear Themes
279
Modern Alchemy
283
Hopes and Perils of Nuclear Energy
285
Controlled Fusion Energy
290
Militarization and Megatrends
295
Big Machines
302
A European Big Science Adventure
308
Particle Discoveries
312
Weak Interactions
317
Quarks
321
The Growth of Particle Physics
325
Fundamental Theories
332
The Ups and Downs of Field Theory
336
Gauge Fields and Electroweak Unification
339
Quantum Chromodynamics
344
Cosmology and the Renaissance of Relativity
349
The Steady State Challenge
354
Cosmology after 1960
357
The Renaissance of General Relativity
361
Elements of Solid State Physics
366
Semiconductors and the Rise of the Solid State Community
370
Breakthroughs in Superconductivity
375
Engineering Physics and Quantum Electronics
382
Microwaves the Laser and Quantum Optics
386
Optical Fibers
391
Science under AttackPhysics in Crisis?
394
A Revolt against Science
401
The End of Physics?
405
Unifications and Speculations
409
Grand Unified Theories
411
Superstring Theory
415
Quantum Cosmology
419
A Look Back
425
Nobel Physics
427
A Century of Physics in Retrospect
440
Physics and the Other Sciences
444
Conservative Revolutions
447
Appendix
453
Bibliography
461
Index
481
Copyright

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About the author (2002)

Helge Kragh is Professor of History of Science at Aarhus University, Denmark. His previous books include An Introduction to the Historiography of Science, Dirac: A Scientific Biography, and Cosmology and Controversy: The Historical Development of Two Theories of the Universe (Princeton).

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