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The history of science as represented by people's name

  1. May 23, 2007 #1
    hi,

    I am going to study the history of science (physics and mathematics) by reading the biographies of big names in scientific history because I think each of them do represent certain ideas of their generation.

    The name list inmy hand now is:
    Galileo --> Newton --> Maxwell --> Bolztmann --> Plank --> Einstein --> Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Dirac.

    Do you have any name that I have missed out?

    haha....
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 23, 2007 #2

    cristo

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    Well, given that there are at most two mathematicians in your list, then yes, you have missed some names out!
     
  4. May 23, 2007 #3
    Learning the history of science, does not mean just learning the history of physical scientists. To get at least the basics of a bare minimum on the history of science, I would like to suggest

    Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Maxwell, Planck, Einstein

    After that, you can work your way from there.
     
  5. May 23, 2007 #4

    loseyourname

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    The study of the history of science doesn't usually entail reading biographies. Academically, the focus in generally on accomplishments, failures, and the ideas each guy as to how science should be conducted, either as expressed through actual declarations, or as implicit in their experimental design. But, of course, if you're just doing this for personal enrichment and want to know the life stories, that's fine.

    I'd recommend you also read up on some of the earlier developments. It all starts with Aristotle, and it's probably worth looking into Empedocles and Democritus as well, who formulated the first evolutionary and atomic theories. Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon are importantly the first men who brought back Aristotelian thinking to Europe in the middle ages and started the scientific revolution that we recognize today. Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes were the first to articulate and justify particular scientific methods, and nice corollary to their ideas would be to read up on the debates between Thomas Hobbes and Robert Boyle, who took the sides of rational and empirical science as it specifically applied to gas laws. Looking at how Boyle won out there, and how of Newton won out over Leibniz, in particular in light of the fact that Leibniz was actually more right about a lot of things, but his ideas just didn't make any sense until we discovered the modern incarnations of relativity and quantum physics.

    After that, you can basically go with the major scientists you know of from the last three hundred years or so, who built upon the methods of Newton, Bacon, and Boyle.
     
  6. May 23, 2007 #5
    Why does it always needs to be a "theorist," or all the characters that appear in the first couple of chapters of a pop.sci book?

    What happened to people like Faraday?

    And I second what Moridin says. Edit: I just saw that you restricted yourself to physics and mathematics. In that case, I might include some 18/19th century mathematicians...Euler, Fourier, Gauss, et. al.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2007
  7. May 23, 2007 #6

    honestrosewater

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    Hah, I also was going to suggest checking out Faraday alongside Maxwell. I found him quite inspiring and entertaining.

    Also, where is Leibniz? Oh, loseyourname got him. Okay, John von Neumann? That guy was an animal. Tesla?

    Oh, another animal was Paul Erdős. He should introduce you to tons of areas and problems.

    Oh, I'm not sure how important you might consider him, but someone else who was really cool was Hermann von Helmholtz. He was the first (or among the first) to posit the conservation of energy and predict the heat death of the universe. He was actually a physician as well as a physicist, and his work in optics (invented ophthalmoscope) and acoustics (invented Helmholtz resonator) (and even his work on conservation of energy) incorporates the two fields.

    Okay, I'm going to stop now. I just keep thinking of cool people.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2007
  8. May 23, 2007 #7

    russ_watters

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    I've had history of science and astronomy classes and I'm pretty sure they both included Brahe, who was mostly just an observer, not a theoriest.
     
  9. Jun 16, 2008 #8

    I am going to agree here. Without emphasis on empirical observation science would be boiled down to what it was before Bacon and Descartes (and even during) which was composed highly of quacks and alchemist.
     
  10. Jul 2, 2008 #9

    arildno

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    All of you evil suppressers of the great Archimedes:

    SHAME ON YOU ALL!!
     
  11. Jul 2, 2008 #10

    arildno

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    To take a few more important names from antiquity and early middle ages:
    Eudoxos (method of exhaustion), Erastothenes, Euclid, Ptolemy, Alhazen
     
  12. Jul 2, 2008 #11

    Astronuc

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  13. Jul 3, 2008 #12
    Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney is one of the more popular books about Tesla. Unfortunately it discusses virtually none of the science involved in his work which is probably going to be a common issue with biographies as LYN pointed out. It was still a good book though.
     
  14. Jul 18, 2008 #13

    Mk

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    Hah!

    Neumann was an animal? Didn't Tesla castrate himself, and didn't he befriend an imaginary white pigeon?
     
  15. Jul 18, 2008 #14

    marcus

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    I looked over the first 13 posts and nobody said Johannes Kepler. He was contemporary with Galileo. When Newton came along he made a unified theory that would encompass both the earth surface gravity we experience and the celestial gravity of elliptical orbits---laws that Kepler identified. Like a planet sweeps out equal area per unit time. And the square of the period is proportional to the cube of the mean distance from the sun---half the major axis of the ellipse is the average of the longest and the shortest distance, you take the 3/2 power of that and it tells you the orbit's period, in years. Kepler discovered amazing things. Some of our first mathematically expressed physical laws involving motion. The most sophisticated laws of motion up to that time, I would say.

    So I would write it this way
    Galileo, Kepler --> Newton --> Maxwell --> Boltzmann --> Planck --> Einstein --> Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Dirac.
    and I would begin with Arthur Koestler's biography of Kepler called The Watershed.
    It is actually part of a longer book about the beginnings of modern science called The Sleepwalkers. The part about Kepler was short and made good reading so they took it out of the larger volume and republished it as a handy paperback with The Watershed as the new title.

    Koestler is good because he's passionately interested in the science (not just in the personality and life story) and he gets into the science (though in a non-mathematical way)
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2008
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