By Manju Gupta
More Folktales of Science by Dilip M. Salvi, Rupa & Co., 186 pp, Rs 195.00
ON getting along in years, every man with time standing heavy on hand, tends to ponder on the past and recall not only the tragedies, but even the incidents of youth not only in his own life, but in that of others as well. Such events not only provide entertainment but instruct and edify too.
We all are believers in scientific progress and if today the world is described as a ´global village´, it is mainly due to the revolutionary changes brought about as a result of scientific discoveries. Rupa Publishers have come out with this entertaining sequel to the much enjoyed and talked about Folktales of Science. This has been written essentially by a science fiction writer who had won several national awards and fellowships for popularising science (he passed away this year only). Full of incidents and amusing ancedotes about quaint scientists who, despite possessing extra intelligence were human and humane like us ordinary mortals.
This book relates a few incidents from the lives of scientists. The author has given importance to lesser known scientists like Charles Babbage who invented the computer; Hans Bethe who theorised the origin of chemical elements in the universe; George Boole, the British methematician who created the Boolean algebra used in the computer; Hermann Bondi who won acclaim for his ´steady-state´ theory of the universe; S.N. Bose, who became popular among the European physicists for his work on ´Bose Statistics´; David Brewster for contribution to light polarisation; Stanislao Cannizzaro, the Italian chemist who resolved the confusion over atomic weights; Michel Eugene Chevreul, the French chemist who discovered various industrial acids and invented the candle; Olivar Evans who invented the steam wagon or carriage; Lev D. Landau, the Russian physicist who became renowned for his work on condensed matter, and many such others.
Interspersed with a paragraph or two on these lesser known scientists, the author has provided in greater detail incidents from the lives of better known scientists like Archimedes, the Greek scientist, mathematician and astronomer for his confrontation with a Roman soldier; Niels Bohr, who laid the foundation of atomic theory; P.A.M. Dirac, the British physicist renowned for his contribution to quantum physics; Arthur S. Eddington, the British astronomer who held a special fascination for large numbers; Thomas Ava Edison, the American inventor who invented the phonograph and electric bulb; Albert Einstein, the Nobel laureate who is renowned for his theory of relativity; Michael Faraday, the British physicist who won acclaim for his revolutionary discoveries in electromagnetism; Enrico Fermi, the Italian-American Nobel laureate who is considered the father of the atom bomb.
Though some of the ancedotes are nothing unusual or new, but quite a few, particularly of the lesser known scientists, will help to stimulate the reader´s interest in scientists and their lives. Here is a book meant for young readers, particularly school students.
(Rupa & Co., 7/16 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002.)