Zwicky: The Outcast Genius Who Unmasked the Universe (Hardback)
  • Zwicky: The Outcast Genius Who Unmasked the Universe (Hardback)
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Zwicky: The Outcast Genius Who Unmasked the Universe (Hardback)

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£29.95
Hardback 368 Pages
Published: 10/09/2019
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“A fitting biography of one of the most brilliant, acerbic, and under-appreciated astrophysicists of the twentieth century. John Johnson has delved deeply into a rich and eventful life, and produced a rollicking account of how Fritz Zwicky split his time between picking fights with his colleagues and discovering amazing things about our universe.”—Sean Carroll, author of The Big Picture

Fritz Zwicky was one of the most inventive and iconoclastic scientists of his time. He predicted the existence of neutron stars, and his research pointed the way toward the discovery of pulsars and black holes. He was the first to conceive of the existence of dark matter, the first to make a detailed catalog of thousands of galaxies, and the first to correctly suggest that cosmic rays originate from supernovas.

Not content to confine his discoveries to the heavens, Zwicky contributed to the United States war against Japan with inventions in jet propulsion that enabled aircraft to launch from carriers in the Pacific. After the war, he was the first Western scientist to interview Wernher von Braun, the Nazi engineer who developed the V-2 rocket. Later he became an outspoken advocate for space exploration, but also tangled with almost every leading scientist of the time, from Edwin Hubble and Richard Feynman to J. Robert Oppenheimer and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.

In Zwicky, John Johnson, Jr., brings this tempestuous maverick to life. Zwicky not only made groundbreaking contributions to science and engineering; he rose to fame as one of the most imaginative science popularizers of his day. Yet he became a pariah in the scientific community, denouncing his enemies, real and imagined, as “spherical bastards” and “horses’ asses.” Largely forgotten today, Zwicky deserves rediscovery for introducing some of the most destructive forces in the universe, and as a reminder that genius obeys no rules and has no friends.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674979673
Number of pages: 368
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

[An] engaging biography…Reveals a life that is far deeper and more nuanced than the caricature…A sympathetic reassessment of his overall legacy. - Wall Street Journal

A lively new biography…Johnson has written a book that explains the astronomical facts simply and clearly without using technical jargon. But the emphasis is on the human characters, not on the science. - Freeman Dyson, New York Review of Books

[A] spirited biography…Johnson’s book is rich enough to inspire interesting meditations on research, idiosyncrasy—and reputation. - Nature

Of all the science biographies that came out in 2019, this one, about the legendary scientist Fritz Zwicky, was far and away my favorite…[A] gem of a book…If you enjoy biographies of scientists, particularly underappreciated ones, you'll want to pick this one up for sure. - Ethan Siegel, Forbes

Interesting to read and provides an insight into a rich, complicated character and his engagement with the world he was part of. - Chris North, BBC Sky at Night

A detailed and insightful biography. The story certainly captures both the way in which Zwicky liked to see himself and the way in which some leading physicists responded to him. Others, however, took offense and did their best to ignore the astronomer, both during his lifetime and afterwards—one of the reasons why he is largely forgotten today. - Andrew Robinson, Physics World

A well-rounded biography of the brilliant, contrarian scientist…Stands as an evenhanded examination of a pugnacious and imaginative genius, and it should spark new interest in Zwicky. - Publishers Weekly

[An] excellent biography of Zwicky. - Jeff Foust, Space Review

This is a fitting biography of one of the most brilliant, acerbic, and under-appreciated astrophysicists of the twentieth century. John Johnson has delved deeply into a rich and eventful life, and produced a rollicking account of how Fritz Zwicky split his time between picking fights with his colleagues and discovering amazing things about our universe. - Sean Carroll, author of The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself

Zwicky is everything a good science history book should be. With an eccentric and brilliant scientist at its heart, this book illuminates the very human nature at the center of all the best scientific discoveries. - Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

This book is absolutely marvelous—I really could not put it down. - James Gunn, Princeton University

Well researched…An enjoyable read. - Helge Kragh, Physics Today

Perhaps the most significant gadfly to inspire, annoy, challenge, and provoke astronomy in the 20th century…I ended my read through Johnson’s book glad that, from time to time, such mavericks come along to create a bit of intellectual chaos. - David Stickland, The Observatory

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