The Development of Physical Thought: a Survey Course of Modern Physics


WITH the increasing complexity and development of science, the tendency becomes more evident for textbooks to appear, not only on the different sub-divisions of any particular branch of science, but also on each of the various aspects and further sub-divisions of these branches. The number of works essaying to give a historical survey of physics as a whole and correlating the various sections, with due consideration of the philosophical basis, being distinctly limited, one approaches the present volume with more than ordinary interest, even though it was intended to meet the needs of a certain type of college course, rather than those of the general reader. The authors have attempted to compile a general fifteen-weeks' course open to all students of arts and science irrespective of previous exposure to ‘high-school’ physics, and comprehensible to a majority having only an elementary knowledge of mathematics. The authors further state that it was therefore decided to “organise the subject in terms of the development of human ideas and concepts of the physical world”, to give the manner of their evolution into modern physical science, and “at no place to introduce equations, laws, or phenomena without establishing their origin and their relation to other portions of the subject”, the latter being “in every case shown to be the result of a controlled experiment or observation, or else a relation derived from such facts”. It is not to be wondered at that the task is admitted to have proved exceedingly difficult, and one marvels at the range of matter covered in a text which copes with such extremes as giving (in a footnote) an explanation of the sine of an angle and, later, the Lorentz transformation formulae, the Planck equation and the Einstein specific heat expression, or expounding why the formula of water is H2O and not HO and giving, seven pages farther on, the Wohler synthesis of urea, and in due course a detailed table of the extra-nuclear electronic configurations.

The Development of Physical Thought: a Survey Course of Modern Physics.

By Prof. Leonard B. Loeb Prof. Arthur S. Adams. Pp. xv + 648. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.; London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd., 1933.) 23s. net.

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