A selection of anecdotes... Cats and dogmas A mathematical death The Bucklands deflate a miracle Farmyard thermodynamics Chemistry in the kitchen: the discovery of nitrocellulose Fortune favours the ham fist Rutherford finds a solution The unbreakable cypher Mathematical peril The Pauli principle The first Eureka Baccy and quanta Hewn in marble Koch on cooking Ben Franklin stills the waves Loving an enzyme The poltergeist next door Tug-of-war on the thread of life The living fossil Smoking for the Fuhrer and many more (some 200 entries)
Walter Gratzer is a biophysicist at the Randall Centre for Molecular Mechanisms of Cell Function, King's College London. He is known to a wide readership through his book reviews, which are invariably models of clarity and elegance. He edited The Longman Literary Companion to Science (published in the USA as The Literary Companion to Science) and The Bedside Nature, and he is author of The Undergrowth of Science: Delusion, Self-Deception and Human Frailty (OUP, 2000).
Sifting through centuries of scientific ephemera, biophysicist Gratzer uncovers what may be the real history of science, revealed not by its formal narratives but by anecdotes of discovery shared over cups of coffee and pints of beer. The resulting collection of almost 200 tales is a browser's delight, an informal history featuring appealing quotes from memoirs, biographies and reports and candid images of scientists at work. Gratzer, author of The Undergrowth of Science, acknowledges that he cannot verify the truth of each account (though he includes extremely reliable sources for most) and cheerfully notes that he includes reports he feels "deserve to be true." Luminaries from polymathic Archimedes, whom Grazter credits with "the first eureka," to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, who attributed his scientific inspiration to a Cornell University dining hall plate, are shown in all their brilliant (and sometimes nasty) humanity. Not surprisingly, many of science's greatest moments turn out to be the result of stereotypical absentmindedness, and Gratzer reports these incidents with affectionate glee. While some of the material is familiar, readers at all levels of scientific literacy will find fresh, witty and sometimes moving glimpses into the reality of scientific endeavor. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
`Walter Gratzer's tales are delightful...' New Scientist `Review from previous edition open the book at any point and be educated, thrilled, sobered or surprised, for there is astonishment and delight on every page . . . a banquet of epiphanies, a reference book which is also a work of art.' Oliver Sacks, in Nature `hilarious, baffling, surreal, dry, shocking, and almost always enthralling. You'll want this book just for the delight of reading it.' Focus `This romp through the best stories from the history of science--from the death of Archimedes to the explanation of superconductivity--will delight even those with just a passing interest in the subject.' Good Book Guide `[Gratzer] is the perfect author and editor for this hilarious compilation of scientific history, gossip and eccentricity.' Sunday Times `Perfect bathroom reading for anyone who wants to get under the skin of science.' Fortean Times `wonderfully entertaining' Sunday Telegraph