THE END OF THE CERTAIN WORLD: The Life and Science of Max Born, the Nobel Physicist Who Ignited the Quantum Revolution

Nancy Thorndike Greenspan, Author . Basic $26.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-7382-0693-6

German physicist Max Born (1882–1970) was Werner Heisenberg's mentor on the experiments in quantum mechanics that earned Heisenberg the 1932 Nobel Prize and enduring fame; one of the most valuable contributions of Greenspan's biography, the first ever of Born, is an analysis of the backstage considerations that excluded Born from sharing in that honor. (He was recognized more than 20 years later for related research.) Although Born's theoretical breakthroughs get some explanation, Greenspan is much more concerned with the human drama behind the science, and, granted access by the family to Born's papers, she uses them to significant effect in drawing out her tale. Born's struggle for full recognition from his peers is placed in the context of the anti-Semitic milieu of early 20th-century Germany and a turbulent marriage that at one point resulted in a nervous breakdown. When the Nazis took power, Born was forced to resign his university post and flee with his family to England; his efforts as a refugee to regain personal and professional stability provide some of the biography's most poignant moments. This empathetic work, Greenspan's first solo effort, lifts a deserving figure out of semi-obscurity and adds a valuable perspective on the origin of modern physics. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/07/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 374 pages - 978-0-470-85663-5
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