This is the third collection from physicist Bernstein, whose New Yorker column, ``The Annals of Science,'' begun in the 1960s, popularized literary profiles of scientists. His first collection, Experiencing Science , published in 1978, contains what are arguably his best pieces, but the 13 profiles and meditations here, drawn from the last five years, offer certain late-career pleasures. The ``cranks'' of the title refers to Bernstein's personal test for distinguishing the insight of genius from the demands of eccentricity, elucidated in ``How Can We Be Sure That Albert Einstein Was Not a Crank?'' Among pieces on Alan Turing, Primo Levi and James Watson, ``Feet of Clay,'' the profile of Erwin Schrodinger, creator of wave mechanics, demonstrates the Bernstein approach at its best: an arcane theory and a diffident man caught in difficult times--all drawn with lucidity, humanity and discreet intelligence. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1993 Release date: 02/01/1993 Genre: Nonfiction
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