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Classical physics history books

  1. Jan 31, 2015 #1
    I'm looking for history books on the beginnings of physics (mechanics, electromagnetism, etc) focused on explaining the evolution of the various fields that we have nowadays in physics more than trying to introduce them.

    For example, I'm looking for books that talk about how Newton discovered the laws of motion and such (same thing with electromagnetism, thermodynamics, etc., and their respective "discoverers").

    If you think my request is rather vague, please feel free to ask and I'll try to be as specific as possible.
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  3. Jan 31, 2015 #2


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    how about googling in books for history of science?
  4. Jan 31, 2015 #3


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  5. Jan 31, 2015 #4


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    I enjoyed "Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field" by Forbes and Mahon. It may be along the lines of what you are looking for?
  6. Jan 31, 2015 #5
    I'm asking this here because this is a forum about PHYSICS and people here will be able to recommend me GOOD books, not just random ones, as Google would do. You could've just said nothing.

    Thank you both for these recommendations, they look perfect. I'll be sure to check them out right away.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2015
  7. Jan 31, 2015 #6


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    well, beginnings of physics started with Aristotle in Western culture, not sure though that this is a GOOD book for you.
  8. Jan 31, 2015 #7
    If you read again my post you'll see an example of what I meant: "books that talk about how Newton discovered the laws of motion and such". Anyway, I'd prefer if people used this thread to recommend books and not discuss silly matters, so let's end our argument.
  9. Jan 31, 2015 #8
    You might find parts of Physics: The Human Adventure worthwhile. This is intended as an undergraduate text for non-physics majors but there is some good history in it and a lot of recommended reading. A lot of the text will also not be relevant for your purposes.

    James Gleick's biography of Newton is great.

    The Story of Physics by Lloyd Motz may be along the lines of what you are looking for though I haven't read too much of it.

    A History of Mechanics by Rene Dugas is great though it is a more technical account of the theoretical details.

    A History of the Work Concept: From Physics to Economics is an interesting read as is Euler as a Physicist though both of those have such detail that they may not be appropriate.

    You might also try a search on the scitation archive. Physics Today sometimes has articles about the historical development of physics.

    Please post others you find and how useful they were to you.
  10. Jan 31, 2015 #9


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    For classical mechanics, there's Rene Dugas's History of Mechanics, in a cheap Dover reprint. For E&M, there's a book by Whittaker; I've forgotten the exact name, but it's also a Dover reprint and an Amazon search for "Whittaker electromagnetism" should turn it up.
  11. Feb 13, 2015 #10
    Would you want to consider The Oxford Handbook of the History of Physics? I read it like a novel, but the book is also informative, say, on Newton's discovery in the early chapters.
  12. Feb 14, 2015 #11


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    <A History of Theories of Ether and Electricity> in 2 volumes.

    As to the OP, any book by Max Jammer is a good read.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2015
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