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The Discoveries: Great Breakthroughs in 20th-century Science, Including the Original Papers
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The Discoveries: Great Breakthroughs in 20th-century Science, Including the Original Papers

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  93 ratings  ·  14 reviews
An unprecedented explosion of creativity, insight, and breakthrough occurred in every field of science in the last century. From the theory of relativity to the first quantum model of the atom to the mapping of the structure of DNA, these discoveries profoundly changed the way we understand the world and our place in it. Now the physicist and novelist Alan Lightman tells t...more
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published November 8th 2005 by Pantheon (first published 2005)
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Kevin Spicer
My brain is like a food chopper mostly, nothing really exits in the same way it entered. So as I write, much of the scientific discoveries in this book are in the process of getting mixed up in the great beef stew of my mind. But if you expect to become a master of theoretical physics and molecular biology by reading this book, well, I'd call you crazy as a quark!

But despite the complexity of the theories and experiments described, Alan Lightman is great at providing simple images that unscienti...more
This was pretty good. I think it is easy to forget how much that is now considered pretty basic scientific knowledge, such as hormones, were pretty much unknown at the beginning of the 20th century. In general, despite being highly cut down, the actual papers were a bit too technical for me to do more than skim (though that was usually interesting), other than for the biological papers, but the difference in styles was something that struck me, especially as there is so little variation in moder...more
as the title suggests, this book is an excellent review of major scientific discoveries that occurred during the 20th century. the fields of research included physics, physiology, astronomy, molecular biology, biochemistry, and others. i would highly recommend it for scientists and non-scientists alike as lightman does a great job of describing the breakthrough.

each chapter consists of two parts: the original published manuscript describing the work in the scientists own words preceded by a sho...more
Natale Cozzolongo
Jun 07, 2011 Natale Cozzolongo rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People continuously fascinated by the world
Shelves: science
I have an ever increasing respect for Alan Lightman's talent and how he applies that talent. This is the kind of writting that, if framed correctly, could turn a whole catagory of people onto the world of science because he humanizes it so brilliantly. I wish my highschool physics and chemistry teachers had taught with this book.

My only complaint was that as a layman, reading through this a little less than rigourously and without a teacher, it got somewhat technical at times, even in Lightman's...more
Carrie A.
This book was so good! I loved the insights the author gave before presenting each original paper. Really gives insight into the minds of some of the most important discoveries through time. I recommend it to any scientist or anyone who is interested in learning the history of science.
Keir Thomas
Took me half a year but I finished it! While a lot of the science was above my head (despite the author's best efforts to make it accessible to the layperson), I found the process of discovery fascinating. Well worth the read.
Ken Rideout
Feb 24, 2013 Ken Rideout marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Lightman's intro to the papers are better than the papers themselves. Anything by Lightman is worth reading. I may or may not actually read the papers themselves. Just the choices he had to make are interesting.
A collection of some of the most groundbreaking and ultimately important scientific papers in the past 100 years. Definitely not a book to read cover to cover but to peruse when you have time.
This book was really great. It had the introductions and current happenings of the scientists that led up to the discoveries. Reading the original works was also really amazing.
Jan 07, 2012 Brian marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
science in it's original form...a couple dozen fundamental ideas with their original papers included and explained.

I pick it up and read a bit now and then.
A must read for anyone interested in science! I know understand the biology bits better and have a passing knowledge of the physics papers.
original text of the most significant science publications, but it's tough, technical reading
Kind of a nerd book, but not over your head. Very insightful and interesting
Beth Shields-Szostak
Jun 22, 2010 Beth Shields-Szostak marked it as to-read
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Alan Lightman is a physicist, novelist, and essayist born in Memphis, Tennessee. He is an adjunct professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of the international bestseller Einstein's Dreams.

More about Alan Lightman...
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