William H. Cropper vividly portrays the life and accomplishments of such giants as Galileo and Isaac Newton, Marie Curie and Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, right up to contemporary figures such as Richard Feynman, Murray Gell-Mann, and Stephen Hawking. We meet scientists--all geniuses--who could be gregarious, aloof, unpretentious, friendly, dogged, imperious, generous to colleagues or contentious rivals. As Cropper captures their personalities, he also offers vivid portraits of their great moments of discovery, their bitter feuds, their relations with family and friends, their religious beliefs and education. In addition, since scientists in a particular field often inspire those who follow, Cropper has grouped these biographies by discipline--mechanics, thermodynamics, particle physics, and so on--each section beginning with a historical overview. Thus in the section on quantum mechanics, readers can see how the work of Max Planck influenced Niels Bohr, and how Bohr in turn influenced Werner Heisenberg. By sequencing the biographies in this way, Cropper gives us an overall portrait of each field.
Our understanding of the physical world has increased dramatically in the last four centuries, starting with Galileo and his telescope and stretching to Stephen Hawking's work on black holes and cosmology. With Great Physicists, readers can retrace the footsteps of the men and women who led the way.