Thursday, July 20, 2017

Most Influential Science Books

What can be influential in science, what books for example. The Guardian has run a piece and Richard Dawkins's Selfish Gene comes out on top. They note[1]:

Debates about the most influential science book of all time habitually settle into a face-off between Darwin’s Origin of Species and Newton’s Principia Mathematica. But a poll to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Royal Society science book prize returned a more recent winner: Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene. Dawkins took a decisive 18% of the vote, while Darwin was jostled into third place by Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything in the Royal Society poll of more than 1,300 readers. As interesting as the votes on the 10 books shortlisted for contention was the often passionate championship of titles that were left off the list. They were dominated by physics and cosmology. Silly not to include David Deutsch, sniffed one of many, who cited a range of works by the Oxford-based quantum physicist. Carl Sagan’s “mind-blowing” 1980 TV tie-in Cosmos garnered a clutch of votes from fans who described it as life-changing.

Now I thought about some of the works I have read over the years and especially the ones I have re-read, some several times. My most favorite is the two volume auto biography of Norbert Wiener. Each time I go through it I see more and more. It is the mind of a mathematician, a brilliant mind. Many think Norbert as a bit of an odd duck and in the Engineering world the folks like Shannon much more, but there is nothing like Wieners autobiography. It is a snapshot in time and a time when one could roam across the world and share ideas.

Now on to my list:

1.     Bell, Men of Mathematics
2.     Einstein, Relativity
3.     Einstein, The Meaning of Relativity
4.     Feynman, QED
5.     Feynman, The Character of Physical Law
6.     Gamow, One, Two, Three…Infinity
7.     Schrodinger, What is Life?
8.     Shannon and Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of Communications
9.     Watson, Double Helix
10.  Watson, Molecular Biology of the Gene
11.  Wiener, Cybernetics
12.  Winograd and Flores, Understanding Computers and Cognition

Just some thoughts.