Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics.
FAUST IN COPENHAGEN: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics GINO SEGRE.
April 1932 marked both a peak in physics and the end of a carefree
era, Segre writes. The meeting at the Copenhagen Institute of
influential scientists was much like earlier annual assemblies pulled
together by Niels Bohr. But this would be the last meeting before Adolf
Hitler's ascent to power in Germany. Discoveries made that year
provided plenty of material for discussion. Both the neutron and
antimatter were identified, and scientists were able to induce the first
nuclear disintegration. Segre, a professor of physics and astronomy,
focuses on the human element at this landmark meeting. The attendees
included Bohr, Paul Dirac, Werner Heisenberg, Lise Meitner, Max
Delbruck, and Paul Ehrenfest. Wolfgang Pauli, another Bohr-meeting
regular who happened to miss the 1932 get-together, is profiled as well.
Segre discusses each character and recounts his or her insights and
achievements in physics. Finally, he reveals the toll that World War II
took on each scientist, including several who endured Nazi persecution.
Viking, 2007, 310 p., b&w plates, hardcover, $25.95.