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Men of Science

As a youth, I lived on a steady diet of 1950's science fiction movies.  But unlike my friends, I inevitably identified with the sometime scatterbrained but always brilliant scientist (usually referred to as "The Professor") who provided the science in "science fiction"  and always got the answers rather than the muscle-bound hero who provided all the action and always got the girl.  This page is a tribute to the real life prototypes who served as ready-made images for those "Professors" and through their imaginative work as scientists inspired and molded much of my life.

Albert Einstein
Carl Sagan
Douglas Hofstadter
Stephan Hawking
Linus Pauling
Richard Feynman
Kurt Gödel

Albert Einstein

einstein4.jpg (62810 bytes) "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

March 14 1879 - April 18 1955
Born Ulm, Germany. Died Princeton, USA.

Albert Einstein has been a lifelong hero of mine.  When I was 11 years old, I signed up to go to a Princeton-Colgate football game with my cub scout troop solely because I knew he was at Princeton.  When the bus arrived, I stole away from my ever-watchful den mother and headed toward the observatory where I knew he had an office hoping against hope that I might catch a glimpse of the great man.  As I wandered the campus, I spotted him turning a corner right in front of me.  I froze in place as he approached.  He seemed deep in thought and was unlikely to notice me standing in the path.  Just as he was about to pass me, something pulled him from his musing.  He smiled at me as I stared unspeaking and said, "Good morning young man."  I mumbled, "Uhm... Good morning sir."  And then he continued on his way.  My eyes followed him until he disappeared around another corner.  It was a moment I would never forget.  I got into all kinds of trouble for leaving the group, an act of irresponsibility that only my mother seemed to understand.  A year later, the great man died, but he lives on in my memories of that brief moment of our meeting some 45 years ago.

Albert Einstein first gained worldwide prominence in 1919, when British astronomers verified predictions of his general theory of relativity through measurements taken during a total eclipse. Einstein's theories expanded upon, and in some cases refuted, universal laws formulated by Newton in the late seventeenth century.

He captured the world's imagination with his blend of brilliant scientific theories and humanitarian concern. Forty-five years after his death, the public is still intrigued by him. Visitors come to Princeton from throughout the world to see where Einstein spent the last twenty years of his life.

Selected Works

[Links are to entries for the book.]
Autobiographical Notes : A Centennial Edition
Albert Einstein Philosopher-Scientist Vol 7
Bite-Size Einstein : Quotations on Just About Everything from the Greatest Mind of the Twentieth Century Vol 1
The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein : The Early Years, 1879-1902 (Part German and Part English) Vol 1
The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein : The Swiss Years, Writings, 1900-1909 Vol 2
The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein : The Swiss Years : Writings, 1909-1911 Vol 3
The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein : The Swiss Years : Writings, 1912-1914 Vol 4
The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein : The Berlin Years : Writings, 1914-1917 (Vol 6) Vol 6
Einstein Notebook
Einstein on Humanism
Essential Einstein
Evolution of Physics
Ideas and Opinions
Investigations on the Theory of the Brownian Movement
The Meaning of Relativity
Out of My Later Years : The Scientist, Philosopher and Man Portrayed Through His Own Words
Principle of Relativity
Out of My Later Years
The Quotable Einstein
Relativity : The Special and the General Theory
Ultimate Einstein CD
Einstein's 1912 Manuscript on the Special Theory of Relativity : A Facsimile
Einstein's God : Albert Einstein's Quest As a Scientist and As a Jew to Replace a Forsaken God
Einstein:How I See the World
Living Philosophies
Sidelights on Relativity
Why War
Einstein on Peace
Essays in Humanism
Essays in Physics
Letters on Wave Mechanics (Philosophical Paperback)


Carl Sagan

sagan1.jpg (14215 bytes) "We wish to find the truth, no matter where it lies. But to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact."

November 9, 1934 - December 20, 1996
Born Brooklyn, NY. Died Seattle, Wash.

During the airing of Dr. Sagan's 1980 television series, "Cosmos", my then seven year old daughter and I sat captivated through all 13 parts while one of the most accomplished popularizers of science explained the universe and its mysteries.  The series covered some 15 billion years of cosmic evolution from the Big Bang to the origin of life and human consciousness.  Carl Sagan's presentation of these subjects was so fascinating and comprehensible that "Cosmos" attracted an audience of over half a billion people in 60 countries.  The book based on the series spent 70 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, including 15 weeks at number 1.

Sagan's career as a popularizer had begun in the early 1970s when he started publishing science books aimed at a lay audience and made his first of 25 appearances on NBC's "Tonight Show." His book "The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence" won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1978. He continued his work as a popularizer of science and critical thinking right up until the end of his life. Despite his fame as popular writer and TV personality, however, his main career was in Academia. From 1971 until his death Carl Sagan was Professor of Astronomy and Space Science at Cornell University. He also worked for NASA and was responsible for NASA Space Probes Pioneer 10 and 11 and Voyager I and II interstellar messages, and worked with the Mariner, Voyager and Viking planetary exploration craft.

Selected Works

[Links are to entries for the book.]
Billions and Billions : Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium
Broca's Brain : Reflections on the Romance of Science
The Demon-Haunted World : Science As a Candle in the Dark 
The Dragons of Eden : Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence
Pale Blue Dot : A Vision of the Human Future in Space 

Douglas Hofstadter

hofstad.gif (41004 bytes) "My belief is that the explanations of 'emergent' phenomena in our brains - for instance, ideas, hopes, images, analogies, and finally consciousness and free will - are based on a kind of Strange Loop, an interaction between levels in which the top level reaches back down towards the bottom level and influences it, while at the same time being determined by the bottom level."

Douglas Hofstadter is College Professor of cognitive science and computer science, director of the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition, and adjunct professor of philosophy, psychology, history and philosophy of science, and comparative literature. His Pulitzer-prize-winning book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (1979) had considerable impact on my thinking in many disciplines, ranging from philosophy to mathematics to artificial intelligence to music, and beyond. I have read this text at least a half dozen times and each time marvel at its content and presentation.

Selected Works

[Links are to entries for the book.]
Gödel Escher Bach: An eternal Golden Braid
Metamagical Themas : Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern
Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies : Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought
Le Ton Beau De Marot : The Spark and Sparkle of Creative Translation
The Tumult of Inner Voices or What Is the Meaning of the Word 'I'?
The Mind's I : Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul

Stephen Hawking

hawking_1.jpg (62246 bytes) "I would like to speculate a little, on the development of life in the universe, and in particular, the development of intelligent life. I shall take this to include the human race, even though much of its behavior through out history, has been pretty stupid, and not calculated to aid the survival of the species."

Stephen W. Hawking has achieved international prominence as one of the great minds of the twentieth century. His popular work exploring the outer limits of our knowledge of astrophysics and the nature of time and the universe was inspirational. From the vantage point of the wheelchair where he has spent the last twenty years trapped by Lou Gehrig's disease, Professor Hawking has transformed our view of the universe. His groundbreaking research into black holes offers clues to that elusive moment when the universe was born. I have read and reread his "A Brief History of Time" and each time my admiration I wonder at the ability of the human mind to shine with brilliance even in the face of physical disability.

Selected Works

[Links are to entries for the book.]
Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays
A Brief History of Time
The Illustrated a Brief History of Time
The Nature of Space and Time 
Stephen W. Hawking's Life Works : The Cambridge Lectures
Theories of the Universe
Hawking on the Big Bang and Black Holes

Linus Pauling

pau0-002.jpg (45655 bytes) "

In 1961, the Soviet Union exploded in the atmosphere a single three-stage nuclear weapon that was a 60-megaton bomb with explosive power equal to 60 million tons of TNT. That's ten times the explosive power of all of the bombs used in the whole of the Second World War, in one explosion. I was then an undergraduate student of physics and as such felt an ambiguous sense of shared guilt at the enormity of this destructive power unleashed by the science I had committed myself to pursuing.  Science was important to me and I recognized its importance to civilization. but irresponsible science threatened to destroy that very civilization.  Dr. Linus Pauling was the first voice of responsibility in the scientific community that I was to hear.

Dr. Pauling had already won renown for his application of modern physics to the problems of chemistry when he took on the unpopular task of informing the public about the dangers of nuclear weapons.  Pauling endured ostracism and ridicule for his uncompromising stand, but went on to win two Nobel Prizes: the 1954 award for Chemistry and the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the open-air testing of nuclear weapons. To the end of his 93 years, Linus Pauling devoted himself to the cause of world peace. Pauling's work as a chemist would have been sufficient to earn him an honored place in the history of science, but his humanitarian efforts made him a beloved figure around the world.

Selected Works

[Links are to entries for the book.]
General Chemistry
Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
Linus Pauling in His Own Words : Selected Writings, Speeches, and Interviews
A Lifelong Quest for Peace : A Dialogue 
Pauling:Century of Science and Life
No More War


Richard Feynman

"The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination -- stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern -- of which I was a part -- perhaps my stuff was belched from some forgotten star, as one is belching there . . . It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. Far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined!"

"A problem confronts anyone wanting to tell Feynman's story: There are a number of Feynman stories, and Feynman himself has already told all the best ones."

To say that there are a number of Feynman stories is an understatement. Anyone who tried to write at any length about Feynman without telling some of those stories would not be doing justice to the man. He really was a curious fellow, both in the sense of being perceived as eccentric and in the sense of approaching life with an insatiable scientific curiosity. But the perceived eccentricity was apparently just a consequence of the way he chose to live his life: He pursued, with a wide-eyed innocence, whatever subjects appealed to him, whether or not they were in his area of specialization, whether or not they seemed to others to be proper matters of scientific interest. He apparently actually lived his life by the motto that became the title of his second popular book: "What do you care what other people think?"

Richard Feynman's  "The Feynman Lectures on Physics," published in 1963 remains for me one of the most lucid explanations of physics that I have ever read.  

Selected Works

[Links are to entries for the book.]
The Character of Physical Law
Elementary Particles and the Laws of Physics
Feynman Lectures on Computation
Feynman Lectures on Gravitation 
The Feynman Lectures on Physics : Commemorative Issue Vol 1
The Feynman Lectures on Physics : Commemorative Issue Vol 2
The Feynman Lectures on Physics/Commemorative Issue Vol 3
Feynman's Lost Lecture : The Motion of Planets Around the Sun
'Most of the Good Stuff : : Memories of Richard Feynman
No Ordinary Genius : The Illustrated Richard Feynman
Qed : The Strange Theory of Light and Matter
Quantum Electrodynamics
Quantum Mechanics and Path Integrals
Six Easy Pieces : Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher
Six Not-So-Easy Pieces : Einstein's Relativity, Symmetry, and Space-Time
Statistical Mechanics : A Set of Lectures
'Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!' : Adventures of a Curious Character

Stay tuned for more....