Good book. I especially enjoyed the first half…this is the part of the history of physics that I would think peole are most familiar with…the development of the quantum theory from the late 1800s to early 1900s. At that point I was ready to give the book a 5, as it entertainingly weaves biographies of the key players with their contributions to physics in a very engaging way. Amazingly, every contributor except one (Schroedinger) made their biggest and most profound earth changing contributions when they were in their young 20s. Truly amazing history.
Unfortunately, the book takes a turn for the worse. The 3rd of the 4 quarters of the book I found boring..it is several hours of incredibly nuanced discussion of differences of opinion between Bohr and Einstein. While this may be of interest to a theoretical physicist, as a medical scientists with an MD PhD I could not follow this. The last quarter of the book picked up a little and put some things into broader perspective, but again by this time physics is so ethereal, mathematical, and without any way to conceptualize what is being described, that I found it difficulty to follow and understand. The denouement is good as it describes the fading into the background of all these great scientists.
On other thing that bugged me is that some stuff is completely over stated. For instance at one point the author claims that the most striking scientific discovery from 1964 is (I cannot remember the specifics now) a finding that validated Bohr’s quantum approach. I bet if you talked to anyone who is not a theoretical physicist, they would think that one of the other discoveries from the year which he lists as examples have had more impact on our lives.
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