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Hydrogen: The Essential Element

Hydrogen: The Essential Element Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Seduced by simplicity, physicists find themselves endlessly fascinated by hydrogen, the simplest of atoms. Hydrogen has shocked, it has surprised, it has embarrassed, it has humbled--and again and again it has guided physicists to the edge of new vistas where the promise of basic understanding and momentous insights beckoned. The allure of hydrogen, crucial to life and critical to scientific discovery, is at the center of this book, which tells a story that begins with the big bang and continues to unfold today.

In this biography of hydrogen, John Rigden shows how this singular atom, the most abundant in the universe, has helped unify our understanding of the material world from the smallest scale, the elementary particles, to the largest, the universe itself. It is a tale of startling discoveries and dazzling practical benefits spanning more than one hundred years--from the first attempt to identify the basic building block of atoms in the mid-nineteenth century to the discovery of the Bose-Einstein condensate only a few years ago. With Rigden as an expert and engaging guide, we see how hydrogen captured the imagination of many great scientists--such as Heisenberg, Pauli, Schrödinger, Dirac, and Rabi--and how their theories and experiments with this simple atom led to such complex technical innovations as magnetic resonance imaging, the maser clock, and global positioning systems. Along the way, we witness the transformation of science from an endeavor of inspired individuals to a monumental enterprise often requiring the cooperation of hundreds of scientists around the world.

Still, any biography of hydrogen has to end with a question: What new surprises await us?

About the Author

John Rigden is Adjunct Professor of Physics, Washington University in St. Louis.

Table of Contents


1. In the Beginning: Hydrogen and the Big Bang

2. Hydrogen and the Unity of Matter: The Prout Hypothesis
William Prout, 1815

3. Hydrogen and the Spectra of the Chemical Elements: A Swiss High School Teacher Finds a Pattern
Johann Jakob Balmer, 1885

4. The Bohr Model of Hydrogen: A Paradigm for the Structure of Atoms
Niels Bohr, 1913

5. Relativity Meets the Quantum in the Hydrogen Atom
Arnold Sommerfeld, 1916

6. The Fine-Structure Constant: A Strange Number with Universal Significance
Arnold Sommerfeld, 1916

7. The Birth of Quantum Mechanics: The Hydrogen Atom Answers the "Crucial Question"
Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli, 1925-26 * Paul Dirac, 1925-26

8. The Hydrogen Atom: Midwife to the Birth of Wave Mechanics
Erwin Schrödinger, 1926

9. The Hydrogen Atom and Dirac's Theory of the Electron
Paul Dirac, 1928

10. Hydrogen Guides Nuclear Physicists: The Discovery of Deuterium
Harold Urey, 1932

11. Hubris Meets Hydrogen: The Magnetic Moment of the Proton
Otto Stern, 1933

12. The Magnetic Resonance Method: The Origin of Magnetic Resonance Imaging
I. I. Rabi, 1938

13. New Nuclear Forces Required: The Discovery of the Quadrupole Moment of the Deuteron
Norman F. Ramsey and I. I. Rabi, 1939

14. Magnetic Resonance in Bulk Matter (NMR)
Edward M. Purcell and Felix Bloch, 1946

15. Hydrogen's Challenge to Dirac Theory: Quantum Electrodynamics as the Prototype Physical Theory
Willis Lamb, 1947

16. The Hydrogen Atom Portends an Anomaly with the Electron
I. I. Rabi, John E. Nafe, and Edward B. Nelson, 1946

17. Hydrogen Maps the Galaxy
Edward M. Purcell and Harold Ewen, 1951

18. The Hydrogen Maser: A High-Precision Clock
Norman F. Ramsey and Daniel Kleppner, 1960

19. The Rydberg Constant: A Fundamental Constant
Johannes Robert Rydberg, 1890 * Theodor Hänsch, 1992

20. The Abundance of Deuterium: A Check on Big Bang Cosmology
David N. Schramm, 1945-1997

21. Antihydrogen: The First Antiatom

22. The Bose-Einstein Condensate for Hydrogen
Satyendranath Bose, 1924 * Albert Einstein, 1925 * Eric A. Cornell and Carl E. Wieman, 1995 * Daniel Kleppner and Tom Greytak, 1998

23. Exotic Hydrogen-like Atoms: From Theory to Technology





Product Details

The Essential Element
Rigden, John S.
Harvard University Press
Cambridge, Mass.
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
May 2002
Grade Level:
23 halftones, 13 line illustrations, 2 t
8.25 x 5.5 in .69 lb

Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Chemistry » General
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » General

Hydrogen: The Essential Element
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Product details 288 pages Harvard University Press - English 9780674007383 Reviews:
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