Bridgman, Percy William

The Logic of Modern Physics

  • First edition, first printing and a lovely copy of this influential work in the philosophy of science. The author, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Percy William Bridgman (1882-1961), was a pioneer in the study of materials under high pressures and made important contributions to thermodynamics, earth science, dimensional analysis, and industrial and military technologies. He wrote extensively on the philosophy of science throughout his career, and this uncommon volume was his first work on the subject. In it he developed his concept of operationalism, which had a wide impact not only in the physical sciences but also psychology and the social sciences.

    Bridgman was spurred to write about the philosophy of physics by both his work on dimensional analysis and its "metaphysical confusions" and by Einstein's relativity. "Einstein's discovery that there is no such thing as absolute simultaneity between events at different places was proof that the basic concepts of time and space had been seriously misconceived. This revelation of shabby thinking at the core of physics seemed to Bridgman to call for a critical reexamination of the conceptual structure of physics as a whole. The Logic of Modern Physics, issued in 1927, is a report of his early conclusions. This book was destined to have wide influence on the thinking of a generation of physicists struggling to make sense out of new and revolutionary facts in a time of change... The attitude with which he approached his task was one of pure empiricism. For him physics was the quantitative exploration and analysis of physical experience. The discoveries behind the revolution in physics then in progress seemed to prove the total folly of assuming that the possibilities of new experience can be limited by any known a priori principles. They showed, moreover, that the central intuitive concepts of physics had been seriously at fault because they had involved unwarranted presuppositions. In his view the time had come for every scientist to analyze afresh the relation between his conceptual apparatus and his actual experience. Only in this way can he hope to escape from the ruts and booby traps embedded in the language he inherits from the past" (Kemble & Birch, Percy William Bridgman, A Biographical Memoir, National Academy of Sciences, 1970).

  • New York: The Macmillan Company, 1927. Octavo. Original black cloth, titles to spine gilt. Lightly penciled ownership inscription to front free endpaper. Spine very slightly rolled, minor bump to upper corner, small spot to fore-edge not affecting contents, cloth and contents very fresh. An excellent copy.

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