Posted on Monday, December 11th, 2006 at 10:11 am under Nonfiction

Title:The fly in the cathedral
Author:Brian Cathcart
Genre:non-fiction

Why I liked this book: Some of the most amazing stories have been the true tales of scientific discovery. Tell them well, and the drama comes through along with the science. The Fly in the Cathedral is the story of the men and women who first probed (literally) the atomic nucleus to try to discover what was there and how it was built. The central characters are the handful of men who worked under the formidable Sir Ernest Rutherford at the Cavendish laboratories in Cambridge, England. Between 1919 and 1932 the secrets of the nucleus were slowly unraveled, and physics moved into the era of big apparatus (cyclotrons, linear accelerators, etc.). The work of the theoretical physicists – Einstein et al. – has been famously celebrated. This is the tale of those who labored with primitive equipment to gather the experimental data that the theorists needed.
The story includes the many failures and mis-directions, the competing teams of experimental physicists around the globe, and the personal lives of those most involved. Among those who play a role are the very biggest names in modern physics – Bohr, Heisenberg, Curie, Gamow, Dirac, de Broglie. But the heroes of this tale are no less interesting for being less well known. James Chadwick, John Cockcroft, and Ernest Walton provide perfect opportunities to look into the life of science at the dawn of the nuclear age.

In Crumb Library: Q 141.C2525 2005

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