History & Philosophy of Science

Weinberg, Steven | The Discovery of Subatomic Particles

  • First edition, first printing of this important popular history of particle physics by “the preeminent public intellectual of fundamental physics”, Steven Weinberg (1933-2021) (Arkani-Hamad, “How Steven Weinberg Transformed Physics and Physicists, Quanta magazine, August 11, 2021). Uncommon in nice condition in the dust jacket.

    Weinberg was one of the most important physicists of the 20th and 21st centuries, and was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize for the electroweak theory, which unified two of the fundamental forces: electromagnetism and the nuclear weak force. “Working separately, Dr. Abdus Salam, a Pakistani theoretical physicist, came to the same conclusions as Dr. Weinberg. Their model became known as the Weinberg-Salam Theory. It was revolutionary, not only for proposing the unification of the electromagnetic and weak forces, but also for creating a classification system of masses and charges for all fundamental particles, thereby forming the basis of the Standard Model, which includes all the forces except gravity” (New York Times obituary, July 29, 2021).

    “Though he had the respect, almost awe, of his colleagues for his scientific abilities and insights, he also possessed a rare ability among scientists to communicate and explain abstruse scientific ideas to the public. He was a sought-after speaker, and he wrote several popular books about science, notably The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (1977) (NYT). As Weinberg explains in the introduction, The Discovery of Subatomic Particles, “grew out of a course that I gave at Harvard in the spring of 1980... to engage students who were not assumed to have any prior training in mathematics or physics in learning about the great achievements of twentieth-century physics”. It “covers the discovery of the fundamental particles that make up all ordinary atoms: the electron, the proton, and the neutron” and was written “for readers who may not be familiar with classical physics, but are willing to pick up enough of it as they go along to be able to understand the rich tangle of ideas and experiments that make up the history of twentieth century physics”.

  • New York & San Francisco: Scientific American Library, an imprint of W. H. Freeman and Company, 1983.

    Quarto. Original blue cloth, titles to spine in silver, grey endpapers. With the dust jacket. Double-page frontispiece and illustrations throughout the text. An excellent copy – the cloth and contents fresh – in the jacket that is lightly toned with minor creasing and short splits at the edges, some scratches primarily affecting the upper panel, and a small dark spot on the illustration on the upper panel.