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By Dover Publications. From Galileo's famous experiments in accelerated motion to Einstein's revolutionary theory of relativity, the experiments recorded here trace the evolution of modern physics from its beginnings to the mid-twentieth century.
Brought together for the first time in one volume are important source readings on 25 epochal discoveries that changed man's understanding of the physical world. Morris H. Shamos, Professor Emeritus of Physics at New York University, has selected and edited the first published accounts of these important experiments and has also added numerous marginal notes that amplify and clarify the original documents. Moreover, the first 19 experiments can be readily re-created by students in a first-year physics course, making the book ideal for classroom and laboratory work as well as individual reference and study.
Finally, Dr. Shamos has provided revealing biographical sketches of the scientists and illuminating references to the political and cultural milieu in which the discoveries are made.
The result is a superbly readable presentation — accessible to lay readers — of the crucial theoretical and empirical breakthroughs that altered the course of modern science. Bethe and Edwin E. Brunch, Milton W. Cole and Eugene Zaremba. Monin and A. Translated by J. Petrashen, E. This Dover edition, first published in , is an unabridged and slightly corrected republication of the work first published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, in One of the most refreshing aspects of current thought in science education is the realization that to appreciate fully our modern views of the physical world the student should explore the historical growth of ideas from which these views were fashioned.
Unfortunately, the trend in recent decades has been quite the opposite. The conventional introductory course in physics has become highly specialized; new developments do not simply supplant the old but add to the already huge body of knowledge, forcing aside the more humanistic elements of the science.
When James Conant, in the first of his Terry Lectures, suggested that science is accumulated knowledge, he had in mind the great progress made in this area during the last few centuries.
But the same term may be used to characterize the encyclopedic nature of most present-day introductory courses in physics, or for that matter, in almost any of the laboratory sciences. It is encouraging to note, therefore, a growing interest in the history of science both as a scholarly activity and as a pedagogic tool.
This book has a twofold purpose. It was developed mainly for use by liberal arts students in a new laboratory physics course at Washington Square College designed on the great experiments idea.
The course traces the development of physical principles by a detailed study of a number of the most telling experiments in physics. There was the hope, moreover, that as supplementary reading material the book might help fill a gap in the more conventional introductory courses in physics.
Other students of science, or of the history of science, and the interested layman may also find it profitable to examine the original accounts of some of these great experiments. The experiments were selected on the basis of two criteria: first, that they be among those generally recognized as the most important in the evolution of physics, and second, that the concepts be meaningful to beginning physics students and lend themselves to laboratory experience at this level.
Most of the experiments, in fact, are found in some form in the usual introductory course. A few conceptual schemes that satisfy only the first requirement, but which are essential for an understanding of contemporary ideas, are included in an appendix.
Except for the use of modern spellings the experiments are presented either in their original, or in translation. Where possible, the original illustrations have been retained; for greater clarity others had to be retouched or redrawn. Each chapter contains a biographical sketch of the individual responsible for the particular discovery, as well as occasional glimpses at the political and cultural atmosphere of the period in which he worked.
This material, together with frequent marginal editorial notation, will make it easier, I believe, for the reader to follow the original accounts and to view them in historical perspective. I wish to acknowledge my gratitude to the many individuals who had some part in the preparation of this work. I am especially grateful to Dean J. Buchta of the University of Minnesota for his critical reading of the entire manuscript, and to Professor Henry H.
Noss of the History Department of New York University for his constructive comments on the first chapter. To my own colleagues in physics I am indebted for generous advice and suggestions, much of which found its way into the manuscript. I owe special thanks to Professor Edgar N. Grisewood, who tested portions of the manuscript in the classroom and was able thereby to offer helpful suggestions based upon student reaction, and to Miss Eleanor Karasak, who participated with Professor Grisewood and me in the initial planning of the course which prompted this book.
A book of this kind obviously could not be written without the cooperation of many publishing companies, whose permission to reproduce the original writings, either directly or in translation, is hereby gratefully acknowledged. My debt to the published literature is indicated only partly by the references and suggested supplementary reading; I wish particularly to single out W.
The task of preparing the manuscript was made easier by the tireless assistance of Miss Lillian Pollack, who was responsible for most of the typing, and Mrs. Freda Cahn, who helped with the proofreading. Koch, for their help with several of the translations.
IT IS always inviting, particularly in science, to assign definite causes to each new phenomenon. The temptation is strong, therefore, when seeking the origins of modern science, to set the specific time when it may be said to have started and to determine the sequence of events responsible for it. The history of science cannot be divorced from the political and cultural history of civilization if we seek to account for its development.
The arts and the sciences, cultural activities both, tend to flourish in similar social and political environments. The same subtle forces that shape the general cultural atmosphere of a period provide impetus as well to its scientific advancement. This does not mean that periods of vigorous intellectual activity necessarily saw major scientific accomplishment. Far from it! It means only that whenever man felt the urge to engage in cultural pursuits, he contributed—not always constructively, it is true—to the development of science.
Modern science, which is characterized by rational thought and by methods that have led successfully to an understanding of natural phenomena, is relatively recent, having its origin in the seventeenth century.
But its roots may be traced, by a sometimes tortuous path, to ancient Greek culture. The latter, sometimes called practical or applied science and involving for the most part trial-and-error methods, dates back virtually to the dawn of civilization.
However much these discoveries—for example, in metallurgy, ceramics, irrigation, and the mechanical arts—may have contributed to the growth of civilization, the methods—and motives—that led to them must not be confused with the planned experimentation by which we seek to confirm our modern views of nature.
It would be a mistake to conclude that only in the last three hundred years has man been concerned with the search for truth. Earlier civilizations were no less interested in knowledge nor less curious about the nature of things. The essential difference lies in the fact that the earlier methods by which such knowledge was sought were not adequate to reveal the truth about the physical universe. The Golden Age of Greece, the fifth and fourth centuries B. This was the period of the famous teacher-pupil sequence: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, probably three of the most remarkable individuals in the history of thought.
All believed in the existence of universal or absolute truths, which man could discover if he would simply pursue the proper methods. They looked upon knowledge not as a means to utilitarian ends but as a means to satisfy human curiosity.
And they held that true knowledge, as distinguished from knowledge derived via the senses, could be deduced by purely formal methods, i. The use of some forms of logic apparently dates back to the pre-Socratic period of the sixth and fifth centuries B. But it was Socrates and Plato who put deductive logic to such skillful use and Aristotle who invented the logical device known as the syllogism. The Socratic method of reasoning found ready acceptance among the knowledge-loving Greeks, who became masters of deduction—and the victims of its weaknesses.
Deduction is the process by which one proceeds to the solution of particular problems through the application of general principles. It involves drawing logical or valid conclusions from given premises, by assuming the ultimate truth of these premises.
If we assert, for example, that x is greater than y, and y greater than z, we conclude that x is greater than z.
The conclusion is a necessary consequence of the premises, and while the deduction is clearly correct the truth of the conclusion rests upon the reliability of the initial statements. It should be evident, then, that deductive reasoning does not necessarily lead to new knowledge, for it provides no recipe for testing the truth of the basic assertions.
The syllogism represents a particular form of deductive argument, having a structure frequently found in ordinary discourse. It consists of a general premise, assumed to be true, followed by a statement which makes use of the general premise in a specific case, and finally a logical conclusion.
As an example, we might use the syllogism to derive a typical Aristotelianlike explanation for the acceleration of falling bodies:. The argument is obviously defective in its premises.
Even granting the questionable validity of the first premise, the analogy drawn in the second has no basis in fact. Yet the conclusion follows logically from these statements and illustrates how the followers of Aristotle employed his deductive system to account for natural phenomena. Such reasoning from false premises to a correct conclusion is unfortunately all too common, even today, in the area of explanation.
The conclusion is correct, of course, because it stems from observation and the premises designed accordingly, not because it follows from true statements. The example given represents but one of many variations of the syllogistic form of argument. It is actually more an example of dialectic than of scientific argument. In the final analysis the latter reasons from true premises while the former only from probable, or even plausible, statements.
The formal logical methods by which such reasoning may be examined for self-consistency were already developed to a high degree by the start of the Hellenistic period with the death in B. However appropriate the deductive method may be in many branches of mathematics, it cannot serve alone as the means for understanding nature. The essence of physics, indeed of any natural science, is to account for nature in the simplest possible terms; that is, to reduce all that we observe to basic principles, or causes.
This is what we mean by an explanation in science and is the way we discover new scientific knowledge. It is this economy of thought and of expression that characterizes explanation in modern physical science. But how do we find the basic causes of things? How do we establish the truths of our initial premises when arguing deductively?
It is here that the Aristotelian procedure fails and we must seek other methods. Aristotle differed from Plato and Socrates in part by his marked interest in natural phenomena and his higher regard for practical matters. He was not adverse to experimentation, although he could hardly be considered a thorough experimenter. Sometimes called the encyclopedist of ancient science because of his careful systematic observations in descriptive natural history, on which rest his chief qualifications as a scientist, Aristotle nevertheless held the most naive and confused views regarding the nature of the physical world.
Much as he contributed to the development of biology, it is because of his inferior physical reasoning that one finds so regrettable his great influence over succeeding centuries of scientific thought. There can be little doubt that it was largely his authority that served to delay so long the full evolution of such areas as dynamics, atomism, and astronomy.
Some two thousand years later we are to find the founders of modern physics, such as Gilbert, Galileo, Boyle, and Newton, having to reject the prevailing doctrines of Aristotle before setting science on a firm foundation.
Great Experiments in Physics: Firsthand Accounts from Galileo to Einstein
By Dover Publications. From Galileo's famous experiments in accelerated motion to Einstein's revolutionary theory of relativity, the experiments recorded here trace the evolution of modern physics from its beginnings to the mid-twentieth century. Brought together for the first time in one volume are important source readings on 25 epochal discoveries that changed man's understanding of the physical world. Morris H. Shamos, Professor Emeritus of Physics at New York University, has selected and edited the first published accounts of these important experiments and has also added numerous marginal notes that amplify and clarify the original documents. Moreover, the first 19 experiments can be readily re-created by students in a first-year physics course, making the book ideal for classroom and laboratory work as well as individual reference and study.
From Galileo's famous experiments in accelerated motion to Einstein's revolutionary theory of relativity, the experiments recorded here trace the evolution of modern physics from its beginnings to the midth century. Brought together for the first time in one volume are important source readings on 25 epochal discoveries that changed man's understanding of the physical world. Morris H. Shamos, Professor Emeritus of Physics at New York University, has selected and edited the first published accounts of these important experiments, and has also added numerous marginal notes that amplify and clarify the original documents.