Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Modern Science

Modern Science 1896 - 1945
© 2004 Ray Spangenburg and Diane Kit Moser
206 pages

I continued this week in a series that I began in the summer -- Spangenburg and Moser's "The History of Science" series, which is an update to their "On the Shoulders of Giants" series. As usual, the authors divide the book into two major sections and one minor one: the Physical Sciences, the Life Sciences, and Science and Society. The book's introduction and prologue work well to integrate this book into the rest of the series and to give the reader a broader perspective. There are ten chapters in all.

This period isn't my favorite period of science -- that probably goes to the 19th century -- but I found the book's content to be interesting. In the physical sciences, we learn about the beginnings of modern physics, starting with the discovery of X-rays and moving on from there -- to radiation and quantum theory and to all they entail. The author organize the Physical Sciences chapter along structural lines: its chapters include "The New Atom", "The New Universe, Part One", "The New Universe, Part Two", and then go into more particulars with "New Observations of the Universe" and "The Atom Split Asunder".

In the life sciences, we see the rise of antibiotics and insulin. Mendel's work is rediscovered and is applied toward Darwinian evolution. The eighth chapter concerns the search for ancestral historeis, including information on the various hoaxes like Piltdown. The third part of the book is new to this series, and focuses on Science and Society. In this particular book, the authors continue to look at medical quacks but also shine a light on the growing rise of women in science. Miniture biographies are woven throughout the book, and many are of women.

In essence, what I've come to expect of the authors: the book is short, concise, interesting, and informative. It may be geared toward a younger age-group than adults, but I find it useful to keep me apprised of the basics.

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