Another important survey in the Notable Scientists series, A to Z of Physicists focuses not only on the lives and personalities of those profiled, but also on their research and contributions to the field. A fascinating and important element of this volume is the attention paid to the obstacles that women and minority physicists have overcome to reach their personal and professional goals. Through incidents, quotations, and photographs, the entries portray something of the human face which is often lost in books on science and scientists. A to Z of Physicists features 150 entries and 50 black-and-white photographs. Culturally inclusive and spanning the whole range of physicists from ancient times to the present day, this is an ideal resource for students and general readers interested in the history of physics or the significant aspects of the personal and professional lives of important physicists.
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Entries are in alphabetical order in this biographical dictionary of 150 of the most important people in physics, from Archimedes to Stephen Hawking. There is summary material at the beginning of the entry: birth and death dates, nationality, and field of expertise. Entries average around 1,200 words in length, and each ends with a short bibliography for further reading. Many include portraits. The volume's end matter lists physicists by field of study, by country of birth, by country where most of the person's work was done, and by year of birth. There is a wonderful chronology that helps the user visualize which scientists were contemporary to each other. The bibliography at the end of the book includes Internet sites.
What makes this dictionary special is the readability of the text. Physics theories are not the easiest concepts to understand, yet the Leiters take care to convey the importance of each person's work and to explain the nature of the discoveries in terms that make it accessible to a wide audience, including high-school science students. The Leiters also try to convey the personalities and beliefs of these physicists and how these influenced their theories and discoveries. Emphasis is on professional rather than personal life. Quotations in the text are from the person's own writings, including letters, journals, and publications. Cross-references help the reader see the connections between the work of different scientists. Understandably, there are few women profiled, but their entries tend to be longer and point out the discrimination the women faced in their professional lives.
Public libraries will find this a great text to have on hand, and high-school libraries should consider it a valuable addition to their collections. RBB
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