The Scientist as Rebel by Freeman Dyson
(New York Review Collections)

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Synopsis

An illuminating collection of essays by an award-winning scientist whom the London Times calls “one of the world’s most original minds.”

From Galileo to today’s amateur astronomers, scientists have been rebels, writes Freeman Dyson. Like artists and poets, they are free spirits who resist the restrictions their cultures impose on them. In their pursuit of Nature’s truths, they are guided as much by imagination as by reason, and their greatest theories have the uniqueness and beauty of great works of art.

Dyson argues that the best way to understand science is by understanding those who practice it. He tells stories of scientists at work, ranging from Isaac Newton’s absorption in physics, alchemy, theology, and politics, to Ernest Rutherford’s discovery of the structure of the atom, to Albert Einstein’s stubborn hostility to the idea of black holes. His descriptions of brilliant physicists like Edward Teller and Richard Feynman are enlivened by his own reminiscences of them. He looks with a skeptical eye at fashionable scientific fads and fantasies, and speculates on the future of climate prediction, genetic engineering, the colonization of space, and the possibility that paranormal phenomena may exist yet not be scientifically verifiable.

Dyson also looks beyond particular scientific questions to reflect on broader philosophical issues, such as the limits of reductionism, the morality of strategic bombing and nuclear weapons, the preservation of the environment, and the relationship between science and religion. These essays, by a distinguished physicist who is also a lovely writer, offer informed insights into the history of science and fresh perspectives on contentious current debates about science, ethics, and faith.
 

About Freeman Dyson

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FREEMAN J. DYSON is Professor Emeritus of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University. He is the author of Disturbing the Universe, Imagined Worlds, Origins of Life, and numerous other books. He is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Weapons and Hope, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science for Infinite in All Directions, as well as many other honors. Throughout his career he has worked on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics, and biology. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
 
Published November 14, 2006 by New York Review Books. 400 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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He remarks on Edward Teller’s extraordinary kindness to students, describes what it was like to be Richard Feynman’s student and in a particularly moving essay portrays Robert Oppenheimer as a genius whose flaw was restlessness.

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The New York Times

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“In the history of science,” he writes, “there is always a tension between revolutionaries and conservatives, between those who build grand castles in the air and those who prefer to lay one brick at a time on solid ground.” Dyson, the brick layer, comes down on the side of Baconian science, buil...

Jan 07 2007 | Read Full Review of The Scientist as Rebel (New Y...

Publishers Weekly

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In an eclectic but deeply satisfying collection, Dyson, a Nobel Prize–winning physicist and prolific author (Weapons and Hope ), presents 33 previously published book reviews, essays and speeches (15 from the New York Review of Books ).

Sep 25 2006 | Read Full Review of The Scientist as Rebel (New Y...

The New York Review of Books

For the great Indian physicists of this century, Raman, Bose, and Saha, science was a double rebellion, first against English domination and second against the fatalistic ethic of Hinduism.

May 25 1995 | Read Full Review of The Scientist as Rebel (New Y...

The New York Review of Books

But whatever a reader’s passion, Dyson’s emphasis on rebels within science rather than upholders of the status quo makes the book especially satisfying.— Steve Weinberg, Booklist In an eclectic but deeply satisfying collection, Dyson, a prize-winning physicist and prolific author…presents 33 pr...

Sep 09 2008 | Read Full Review of The Scientist as Rebel (New Y...

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