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On The Shoulders Of Giants (2002)

by Stephen Hawking

Other authors: Nicolaus Copernicus (Contributor), Albert Einstein (Contributor), Galileo Galilei (Contributor), Johaness Kepler (Contributor), Sir Isaac Newton (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
957815,348 (4.17)9
World-renowned physicist and bestselling author Stephen Hawking presents a revolutionary look at the momentous discoveries that changed our perception of the world with this first-ever compilation of seven classic works on physics and astronomy. His choice of landmark writings by some of the world's great thinkers traces the brilliant evolution of modern science and shows how each figure built upon the genius of his predecessors. On the Shoulders of Giants includes, in their entirety, On the Revolution of Heavenly Spheres by Nicolaus Copernicus; Principia by Sir Isaac Newton; The Principle of Relativity by Albert Einstein; Dialogues Concerning Two Sciences by Galileo Galilei with Alfonso De Salvio; plus Mystery of the Cosmos, Harmony of the World, and Rudolphine Tables by Johannes Kepler. It also includes five critical essays and a biography of each featured physicist, written by Hawking himself.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
While this book is an excellent collection of science writings, it also shows how science writing has evolved since the time of Copernicus. Included in each section is a short biography of each writer. Some of the works are rather confusing to me. For instance, Kepler spends most of his time talking about ratios of planetary distances and relating them to music.

Copernicus speaks of his calculations and observations, finding a number of astronomical distances and things. Of course he uses Euclidean geometry throughout, which is something I really need to brush up on.

Galileo uses discourse between some imaginary people to discuss his methods and ideas.

Kepler uses ratios and observations collected by Tycho Brahe. They must have really guarded their observations back in the day, though I don't get why...

Newton explains his ideas in terms of Euclidean geometry also, which hinders my understanding, since I have to flip back to find the little drawings.

Einstein uses Vector Calculus and simple high school algebra to showcase his ideas, which are quite powerful in this day and age. It is rather amazing that he figured out most of this without experimental data, which only furthered his fame back when he was alive. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
(Original Review, 2002)

Back in the day, Einstein opened up my head to what I thought of as the architecture of the way things are, that level of intelligence/information where I clearly understood what reality was and wasn’t despite the limitations of my senses. I'd try to hold onto it but it ultimately faded. I'd feel myself coming closer and closer back to dull reality, each and every time. There's a scene in the film “Lucy” where she's looking at a tree which seems alive, pulsing w/movement and brilliantly coloured light. Ages ago, my friends and I called them jizzles and we'd see them anywhere anything grew (resulting in multiple trips in the woods, old cemeteries, anywhere there was foliage and we couldn't see buildings). We live at a gross, aggregated level of existence. The levels of explanation of quantum physics does not change life as we experience it. Pure science would struggle to explain fully everyday events because of their complexities, unlike in laboratory conditions, but somehow we deal with them in actual life.

If you are interested in physics try learning more basic things first (that are also more solidly founded), try learning basic quantum mechanics and special and general relativity. That will already keep you busy for a long time and they are necessary to understand more advanced work anyway. These "I'll teach you most advanced things / I'll teach you what time is without bothering you with any of the basics" most of the time just mislead more than inform - especially if they are this far out and use baity books like this one.

Physics isn't about just making any speculative fancy-sounding claims; it's about testing claims and reproducing observations and thereby gaining confidence in the claims. It isn't automatically "progressive" to make speculative claims that have little physical foundation. Again if you are really interested in physics there's 100 years (more than enough) of modern physics to catch up with, which even students take years to learn. This is solid work that has reached a status that is as close to fact as possible in science.

The more I read this book (and bookmark to go back to later), the more I know I have to learn before beginning to understand. I think it's worth reading it, actually. Also, I spend a lot of time staring off and thinking about what I've just read. The same cannot be said of Hawking’s introductions. What was their purpose? Sell the book? Alas, the publishing industry at play here again. Even Derrida didn't go as far as claiming that the text transcended the whole of material constraints.

5 stars for the original texts; 1 star for the introductions. 3 stars altogether. ( )
  antao | Oct 19, 2018 |
That book was a great opportunity to read the original texts by Galileo and Copernicus, which otherwise I would never dare to read. Hawking's introductions are good as well. The illustrations, on the other hand, were dispensable. ( )
  amarcobio | Sep 3, 2013 |
Exactly what it says on the tin. A quick slice of history followed by a seminal and historic work by the chap you have just learned a little about.

A fascinating flick through but hard work if you want to do more than that. ( )
  psiloiordinary | Oct 12, 2008 |
Edited by Stephen Hawking. The scientific writings of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileao, Newton, and Einstein collected into one book. For the advanced student.
  mwittkids | Jul 20, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Hawkingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Copernicus, NicolausContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Einstein, AlbertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Galilei, GalileoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kepler, JohanessContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Newton, Sir IsaacContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Crew, HenryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jeffery, G. B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Menzzer, Carl LudolfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Motte, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perrett, W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Savlio, Alfonso deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wallis, Charles GlenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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