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General History Edit

For some context of the world that science and technology emerged from

  • An Introduction to the History of Western Europe by James Harvey Robinson
  • Europe: A History by Norman Davies
  • The History of Science and Religion in the Western Tradition by Ferngren, et al.
  • The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional and Intellectual Contexts by Edward Grant
  • The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450 by David C. Lindberg

Biographies Edit

  • J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Life by Abraham Pais
  • Niels Bohr's Times,: In Physics, Philosophy, and Polity by Abraham Pais
  • Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein by Abraham Pais
  • Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field: How Two Men Revolutionized Physics by Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon
  • Oliver Heaviside: Maverick Mastermind of Electricity by Basil Mahon
  • The Maxwellians by Bruce J. Hunt (How George Francis FitzGerald, Oliver Heaviside, Oliver Lodge, and Heinrich Hertz revised and confirmed Maxwell's Equations)
  • QED and the Men Who Made It: Freeman Dyson, Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga by Silvan S. Schweber
  • Joseph Fourier: The Man and the Physicist by Herivel
  • Ludwig Boltzmann: The Man Who Trusted Atoms by Carlo Cercignani
  • Boltzmann's Atom: The Great Debate That Launched A Revolution In Physics by David Lindley
  • Degrees Kelvin: A Tale of Genius, Invention, and Tragedy by David Lindley
  • Kelvin: Life, Labours and Legacy by Raymond Flood, Mark McCartney, and Andrew Whitaker
  • The Life of Lord Kelvin: Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Silvanus P. Thompson (The most comprehensive account of 'William Thomson - Baron Kelvin of Largs' there is)
  • Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling by Thomas Hager
  • Schrödinger: Life and Thought by Walter Moore
  • Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg by David C. Cassidy
  • Julian Schwinger: The Physicist, the Teacher, and the Man by Jack Ng Yee
  • Climbing the Mountain: The Scientific Biography of Julian Schwinger by Jagdish Mehra and Kimball Milton
  • The Beat of a Different Drum: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by Jagdish Mehra
  • The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age by Gino Segrè and Bettina Hoerlin 
  • Enrico Fermi, Physicist by Emilio Segre
  • The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo
  • Dirac: A Scientific Biography by Helge Kragh

Subject History Edit

  • A History of Mechanics (Dover Books on Physics) by René Dugas
  • Theories of the World from Antiquity to the Copernican Revolution (Dover Books) by Michael J. Crowe
  • A History of Astronomy (Dover Books on Astronomy) by A. Pannekoek
  • The History of the Telescope (Dover Books on Astronomy) by Henry C. King
  • A History of the Theories of Aether & Electricity: from the age of Descartes to the close of the nineteenth century by Sir Edmund T. Whittaker 
  • Electrodynamics from Ampère to Einstein by Olivier Darrigol
  • Worlds of Flow: A History of Hydrodynamics from the Bernoullis to Prandtl by Olivier Darrigol
  • A History of Optics from Greek Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century by Olivier Darrigol
  • Theories of Vision from Al-Kindi to Kepler by David C. Lindberg
  • Inward Bound: Of Matter and Forces in the Physical World by Abraham Pais
  • The Development of Modern Chemistry (Dover Books on Chemistry) by Aaron J. Ihde
  • Einstein, Hilbert, and The Theory of Gravitation: Historical Origins of General Relativity Theory by Jagdish Mehra

See also the section on Math History

Principal Works Edit

Classical Works Edit

Be forewarned that these require extensive familiarity with Euclid's Elements of Geometry

  • Almagest (AD ~150) by Ptolemy (Ptolemy's comprehensive mathematical treatise of the geocentric model using epicycles, deferents, and equants. The Greek name was "Syntaxis Mathematica", later called "Hē Megalē Syntaxis"/"The Great Treatise" then shortened to "Megiste"/"Greatest" which was transliterated into the Arabic "al-majisṭī" and finally Latinize into "Almagest".)
  • De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) (1543) by Nicolaus Copernicus
  • Astronomia nova (New Astronomy) by Johannes Kepler
  • Harmonices Mundi (Harmony of the World) by Johannes Kepler

Early Works Edit

Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics Edit

  • The Analytical Theory of Heat (Dover Books) (1822) by Joseph Fourier [496 pages]
  • Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire: And Other Papers on the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Dover Books) by Sadi Carnot (Contains 3 papers that laid the foundation of thermodynamics: Carnot's "Reflections on the Motive Power of Heat" (1824), Cladeyron's "Memoir on the Motive Power of Heat" (1834), and Clausius' "On the Motive Power of Heat and one the laws which can be deduced from it for the theory of heat" (1850).) [192 pages]
  • Theory of Heat (Dover Books) (1871) by James Clerk Maxwell (This is where he coined "Maxwell's Demon") [400 pages]
  • Lectures on Gas Theory (Dover Books) (1896-1898) by Ludwig Boltzmann [512 pages]
  • Elementary Principles in Statistical Mechanics: Developed with Especial Reference to the Rational Foundation of Thermodynamics (Dover Books) (1902) by J. Willard Gibbs [224 pages]
  • The Conceptual Foundations of the Statistical Approach in Mechanics (Dover Books) (1911) by Paul Ehrenfest and Tatiana Ehrenfest [128 pages]
  • Treatise on Thermodynamics (Dover Books) (1897-1917) by Max Planck [320 pages]
  • The Theory of Heat Radiation (Dover Books) (1906-1914) by Max Planck [256 pages]

Modern Works Edit

  • The Principle of Relativity: A Collection of Original Papers on the Special and General Theories of Relativity (Dover Books on Physics) by Albert Einstein, H. A. Lorentz, H. Minkowski, and H. Weyl
  • Investigations on the Theory of the Brownian Movement (Dover Books on Physics) by Albert Einstein (Contains the five papers by Einstein on Brownian motion. This is where Einstein finally 'proved' atoms physically existed in 1905-1908. Yes, it really took that long to convince chemists that discrete atoms were a physical reality and not merely a useful calculative aid for chemical reactions and formulas)
  • On a Heuristic Point of View about the Creation and Conversion of Light  (1905) by Albert Einstein (Einstein's Nobel Prize winning miracle year paper on the photoelectric effect) (English 1, English 2, German)
  • An Algorithm for the Machine Calculation of Complex Fourier Series by James W. Cooley and John W. Tukey (One of the most cited papers in Engineering on the Fast Fourier Transform. The FFT itself has an interesting history too, see Gauss and the History of the Fast Fourier Transform, )
  • Error Detecting and Error Correcting Codes (1950) by R. W. Hamming (Very readable paper that kicked off the whole field along with Shannon's work)
  • The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour Through Alan Turing's Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine by Petzold (Not just a walk through of "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem" (1936) but also makes a good introduction to computability theory)
  • Sources of Quantum Mechanics (Dover Books) by van der Waerden (Contains 11 full + 6 abridged papers (1917-1926) on the "old quantum theory" by Einstein, Ehrenfest, Bohr, Ladenburg, Kramers, Slater, Born, Van Vleck, and Kuhn that paved the way to QM and on Matrix Mechanics by Heisenberg, Born, Dirac, Pauli, and Jordan)
  • Collected Papers on Wave Mechanics: Together with His Four Lectures on Wave Mechanics by Erwin Schrödinger (Contains 9 papers (1926-1928) defining Schrödinger's Wave Equation Formulation of Quantum Mechanics, showed that his Wave Equation approach is equivalent to Heisenberg-Born-Jordan's Matrix Mechanics formulation, and a few of its results)
  • Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (1932) by John von Neumann
  • Selected Papers on Quantum Electrodynamics (Dover Books) by Julian Schwinger (34 historical papers (1927-1953) on quantum electrodynamics from Dirac, Jordan, Dyson, Fermi, Feynman, Foley, Heisenberg, Klein, Oppenheimer, Pauli, Weisskopf, Schwinger, Kusch, Lamb, Nordsieck, Retherford, Källen, Bethe, Bloch, Tomonaga, Kroll, Karplus, Wigner, and Villars. The papers were edited by Julian Schwinger, who won the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Richard Feynman and Shinichiro Tomonaga, for their work on quantum electrodynamics.)

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