Pendulum : Léon Foucault and the triumph of science /
Amir D. Aczel.
1st Atria Books hardcover ed.
New York : Atria Books, c2003.
x, 275 p. : ill., map, port., facsims. ; 23 cm.
More Details
New York : Atria Books, c2003.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 251-264) and index.
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This item was nominated for the following awards:
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2003-08-01:
The notion that the earth rotates had been advanced centuries earlier, but in the mid-19th century, physicists and mathematicians remained frustrated by their failure to find clear proof. Leon Foucault had been a frail child and an indifferent student, but by the time he was a young man, he displayed a keen mind and the skilled hands of an inventor. Snubbed by the prestigious but snooty French Academy of Sciences because he lacked a university degree, Foucault persevered with hard work, a little luck, and fortuitous encounters with influential individuals. In 1853, at the Parthenon in Paris, he rocked the scientific community by proving with a pendulum that the earth rotated on its axis. Mathematician Aczel (Fermat's Last Theorum) has crafted a terrific page-turner that captures the essence of the personalities of the story while clearly expounding on the scientific principles. With rich detail, he evokes the spirit of France during the Second Empire, weaving a tale of political intrigue, scientific discovery, and personal triumph. Highly recommended for all public and small academic libraries.-Denise Hamilton, Franklin Pierce Coll. Lib., Rindge, NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2004-05-01:
With almost no formal education, Foucault made one of the most important discoveries of the 19th century. Using a simple pendulum, he clearly demonstrated the rotation of Earth. The discovery astounded the scientific world of the time. Everyone wondered why someone had not made this discovery earlier. But this was not Foucault's only discovery. He went on to invent the gyroscope, accurately measure the speed of light, and make contributions to photography and microscopy. In simple, straightforward prose, Aczel describes these discoveries in detail. The book is well researched, and it reads like a novel. In addition to giving details of the science of the mid-1800s, Aczel provides considerable insight into the society of the time. In particular, he details how Napoleon III helped Foucault in his career. The book contains several interesting black-and-white photographs and a long section of endnotes. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty. B. R. Parker emeritus, Idaho State University
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2003-05-19:
Aczel, one of our best science popularizers (Fermat's Last Theorem; The Mystery of the Aleph; etc.), now recounts the triumphs and struggles of the French physicist L?on Foucault (1819-1868), whose eponymous pendulum presented the first tangible proof of the earth's rotation. Aczel follows Foucault from his beginnings as a medical student and a science journalist covering the meetings of the august French Academy of Sciences to his installation as the official physicist attached to the Imperial Observatory in Paris and his belated election to the Academy of Sciences, finally overcoming the resistance of those who saw as an outsider this genius with no formal academic training. Foucault is portrayed as a wide-ranging thinker, fascinated with questions from the speed of light to the construction of the first gyroscope, but at the center of this account is his 1851 invention and demonstration of his famed pendulum. The author's transitions from narrative to scientific exposition can be a bit rough, but every time the pace begins to drag, he veers off in a new direction, drawing connections between Foucault's work and broader scientific, political and philosophical trends and themes. Aczel's material is so intriguing that one is inclined to forgive his habit of pursuing tangents. The reader is left with a choppy yet fascinating survey of Parisian science during the Second Empire and L?on Foucault's grudgingly rewarded place in it. Illus. (Aug. 19) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, May 2003
Booklist, July 2003
Library Journal, August 2003
Choice, May 2004
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Table of Contents
A Stunning Discovery in the Cellar
Ancient Logic: Bible and Inquisition
Failed Experiments with Falling Bodies
A Science "Irregular" in the Age of the Engineer
The Meridian of Paris"Come See the Earth Turn
"Mathematical Bedlam
A New Bonaparte
The Force of Coriolis
The Pantheon
The Gyroscope
The Coup d'Etat and the Second Empire
An Unemployed Genius
The Observatory Physicist
Final Glory
A Premature End
The Defeat at Sedan
Appendix: Proofs of Foucault's Sine Law
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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