[Byers, Nina] Wali, Kameshwar C.

Chandra: A Biography of S. Chandrasekhar

  • First edition, first printing. Inscribed by the author to pioneering female physicist Nina Byers on the front free endpaper, "Happy New Year! To dear Nina, With love & deep appreciation for all the encouragement, Kamesh, Dec 1991".

    This volume is the authoritative biography of Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, the Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist who did important work on the structure and evolution of stars, black holes, and gravity waves. His most well-known contribution is the Chandrasekhar limit, which describes the minimum mass that must be exceeded for a star to collapse into a neutron star or black hole at the end of its life cycle. He was honored by NASA in the naming of one of their four “Great Observatories”: the Chandra X-Ray Observatory satellite. Carl Sagan studied under Chandrasekhar and wrote that the physicist taught him “what true mathematical elegance is”.

    Author Kameshwar C. Wali is an eminent high-energy physicist at Syracuse University who has also done important work in promoting the history of physics. He is one of the founding members of the American Physical Society’s Forum on the History of Physics, of which the book’s recipient, Nina Byers, was the president.

    Byers received her bachelors in physics at Berkeley and then studied under Murray Gell-Mann and Gregor Wenzl at Chicago, completing her thesis on pi-mesic atoms in 1956. In 1961 she joined the faculty at UCLA where she worked on particle physics as “the first and the only female in the Physics department for 20 years” (Los Angeles Times obituary). Byers remained at UCLA for the rest of her career, through for several years she split her time between Los Angeles and the UK when she was appointed the first female physics lecturer at Oxford.

    During the 1970s and 80s Byers and her students were engaged in cutting edge research on areas such as gauge theories of the electroweak interactions, quarkonium, and bound state systems (UCLA Physics & Astronomy department obituary). At the same time she was deeply involved with the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “Nina served as President of the APS Forum on History of Physics, a position earned through her dedication to promoting the understanding of two weighty subjects: the role of women in physics, and the examination of physicists’ role in the development and deployment of nuclear weapons” (UCLA obituary).

    A beautiful copy and a wonderful association, warmly linking two scientists who have done much to promote the history of physics.

  • Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1991. Octavo. Original red cloth, titles to spine gilt. With the dust jacket. Minor bumps to lower corners. An excellent copy in the jacket with just a little fading of the spine panel and very minor creasing at the lower corners.

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