The development of physical theory is one of our greatest intellectual achievements. Its products--the currently prevailing theories of physics, astronomy, and cosmology--have proved themselves to possess intrinsic beauty and to have enormous explanatory and predictive power. This anthology of primary readings chronicles the birth and maturation of five such theories (the heliocentric theory, the electromagnetic field theory, special and general relativity, quantum theory, and the big bang theory) in the words of the scientists who brought them to life. It is the first historical account that captures the rich substance of these theories, each of which represents a fascinating story of the interplay of evidence and insight--and of dialogue among great minds.
Readers sit in with Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo as they overturn the geocentric universe; observe the genius of Faraday and Maxwell as they "discover" the electromagnetic field; look over Einstein's shoulder as he works out the details of relativity; listen in as Einstein and Bohr argue for the soul of quantum mechanics in the Completeness Debate; and watch as Hubble and others reveal the history of the universe.
The editors' approach highlights the moments of discovery that rise from scientific creativity, and the presentation humanizes the scientific process, revealing the extent to which great scientists were the first to consider the philosophical implications of their work. But, most significantly, the editors offer this as their central thesis: although each was ushered in by a revolution, and each contains counterintuitive elements that delayed its acceptance, these five theories exhibit a continuous rational development that has led them to a permanent place in the worldview of science.
Accessible to the general reader yet sufficiently substantive that working scientists will find value in it, The Tests of Time offers an intimate look into how physical theory has been developed, by the brilliant people who have developed it.
"[A] very attractive collection. . . . A delight to browse and a useful assignment in any course in undergraduate physics, philosophy, or history of science."--Choice
"This excellent work collects a judiciously chosen group of writings on what are universally regarded as five of the most significant physical theories in the history of science. Each of the selections serves to place the development and significance of the physical theory in its historical setting as well as to shed light on important philosophical issues it raises. This is an extremely useful book that will be of benefit to anyone with an interest in the history and philosophy of science. I for one will certainly be using this volume as a source book for my courses in the history and philosophy of the physical sciences."--Martin Tamny, The City College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York
"It is a pleasure to find an original addition to the small list of worthwhile books on the history and philosophy of natural science. The authors have done an excellent job assembling and organizing a selection of texts that can be used equally well at an elementary or more advanced level. No other anthology combines breadth and accuracy so well."--Stephen Toulmin, University of Southern California
"This book is the result of an ambitious educational project to teach students by having them study original scientific texts selected with pedagogical shrewdness. It makes it possible for students to engage in actual scientific thinking and to do this almost entirely without mathematics and in the intellectual presence of great and imaginative creative scientists. There is no other work like it, and it has great appeal."--Robert S. Cohen, Boston University