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The 100 or so Books that shaped a Century of Science from "Scientists' Bookshelf" American Scientist, November-December 1999, Volume 87, No. 6

The 100 or so Books that shaped a Century of Science

from "Scientists' Bookshelf" American Scientist, November-December 1999, Volume 87, No. 6


  • The autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882 by Charles Darwin
  • A mathematician's apology by G. H. Hardy
  • The double helix : a personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA by James Watson
  • Disturbing the universe by Freeman Dyson
  • "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!" : adventures of a curious character by Richard Feynman

Field Guides

  • William Garnett, aerial photographs by William Garnett
  • East African mammals : an atlas of evolution in Africa by Jonathan Kingdon
  • Five kingdoms : an illustrated guide to the phyla of life on earth by Lynn Margulis and Karlene V. Schwartz
  • Photo-atlas of the United States : a complete photographic atlas of the U.S.A. using satellite photography by Photo-Geographic International
  • A field guide to the birds of eastern and central North America by Roger Tory Peterson
  • The Hubble atlas of galaxies by Allan Sandage (superseded by The Carnegie atlas of galaxies)
  • Geology illustrated by John S. Shelton
  • Sea of Cortez; a leisurely journal of travel and research, with a scientific appendix comprising materials for a source book on the marine animals of the Panamic faunal province by John Steinbeck and E. F. Ricketts
  • Oxford English Dictionary (1933), H. Bradley, W. A. Craigie, J. A. H. Murray, and C. T. Onions (eds.). Available online to MSUM students, staff, and faculty
  • Hortus; a concise dictionary of gardening, general horticulture and cultivated plants in North America by Liberty Hyde Bailey

The Physical Sciences


  • The whole shebang : a state-of-the-universe(s) report by Timothy Ferris
  • One two three ... infinity : facts & speculations of science by George Gamow
  • A brief history of time : from the big bang to black holes by Stephen Hawking
  • The mind's I : fantasies and reflections on self and soul by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett
  • The Mediterranean was a desert : a voyage of the Glomar Challenger by Kenneth Hsü and William Ryan
  • From one to zero : a universal history of numbers by Georges Ifrah
  • The periodic table by Primo Levi
  • Annals of the former world by John McPhee
  • Pale blue dot : a vision of the human future in space by Carl Sagan
  • Dreams of a final theory by Steven Weinberg
  • Symmetry by Hermann Weyl


  • The principles of quantum mechanics (1930) by Paul Dirac ; 4th ed. (1958) here
  • The collected papers of Albert Einstein, volume 2 : the Swiss years : writings, 1902-09 by Albert Einstein
  • Fractals : form, chance, & dimension (1977) by Benoit B. Mandelbrot
  • Nature of the chemical bond and the structure of molecules and crystals; an introduction to modern structural chemistry (1939) by Linus Pauling ; 3d ed. (1960) here
  • Principia mathematica (1910-13, 3 vols. Vol. 1; Vol. 2; Vol. 3) by Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead ; 2d ed. here
  • A search for structure : selected essays on science, art, and history (1981) by Cyril Smith
  • Theory of games and economic behavior (1944) by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern ; 3d ed. (1953) here; 60th anniversary ed. (2004) here
  • Cybernetics : or, Control and communication in the animal and the machine (1948) by Norbert Wiener ; 2d ed. here
  • The conservation of orbital symmetry (1970) by R. B. Woodward and Roald Hoffmann
  • The meaning of relativity (1922) by Albert Einstein ; 5th ed. here
  • QED : the strange theory of light and matter (1985) by Richard Feynman ; 7th printing, with corrections, here
  • The art of computer programming (1968) by Donald Knuth ; 2d ed here ; 3d ed here

History of Science

  • Inward bound : of matter and forces in the physical world by Abraham Pais
  • Science in history by John Desmond Bernal
  • Microbe hunters by Paul de Kruif
  • In the name of science (revised and expanded as Fads and fallacies in the name of science) by Martin Gardner
  • The great chain of being ; a study of the history of an idea by Arthur O. Lovejoy
  • Science and civilization in China by Joseph Needham
  • The making of the atomic bomb by Richard Rhodes
  • A history of technology, edited by Charles Singer and others
  • The right stuff by Tom Wolfe

Science Itself Examined

  • Science-the endless frontier a report to the President on a program for postwar scientific research by Vannevar Bush
  • The structure of scientific revolutions (1962) by Thomas Kuhn ; 2d ed. here; 3d ed. here
  • The art of the soluble by Peter B. Medawar
  • The logic of scientific discovery by Karl Popper
  • The two cultures and the scientific revolution by C. P. Snow ; 2d ed. here
  • Science and the modern worldby Alfred North Whitehead

Many-Sided Life


  • Jungle days by William Beebe
  • Silent spring by Rachel Carson ; 40th anniversary edition here
  • Digging dinosaurs by John R. Horner and James Gorman
  • The possible and the actual by François Jacob
  • A Sand County almanac by Aldo Leopold ; 1966 ed. here
  • Arctic dreams : imagination and desire in a northern landscape by Barry Lopez
  • King Solomon's ring : new light on animal ways by Konrad Lorenz
  • Chance and necessity; an essay on the natural philosophy of modern biology by Jacques Monod
  • The hot zone by Richard Preston
  • The lives of a cell; notes of a biology watcher by Lewis Thomas


  • Tropical nature by Adrian Forsyth and Kenneth Miyata
  • Emerging viruses, edited by Stephen S. Morse
  • What is life? : the physical aspect of the living cell by Erwin Schrödinger
  • On growth and form by D'Arcy Thompson ; 2d ed. here
  • The biosphere by Vladimir Vernadskii
  • The open sea : its natural history by Alister Clavering Hardy
  • The insect societies by Edward O. Wilson

The Evolution of Life

  • The blind watchmaker by Richard Dawkins
  • Ever since Darwin : reflections in natural history by Stephen Jay Gould
  • The beak of the finch : evolution in real time by Jonathan Weiner
  • The material basis of evolution by Richard Goldschmidt
  • The genetical theory of natural selection by Ronald Aylmer Fisher ; 2d ed. here
  • Adaptation and natural selection; a critique of some current evolutionary thought by George Williams
  • Darwin on man : a psychological study of Scientific creativity by Howard Gruber, with Paul H. Barrett

The Nature and Rise of Our Own Species


  • Women's work : the first 20,000 years : women, cloth, and society in early times by Elizabeth Barber
  • Steps to an ecology of mind : collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology by Gregory Bateson
  • Science and human values by Jacob Bronowski ; Rev. ed. here
  • In the shadow of man by Jane Goodall
  • The intelligent eye by R. L. Gregory
  • The doors of perception by Aldous Huxley
  • Adam's ancestors : the evolution of man and his culture (1934) by L. S. B. Leakey ; 4th ed. here
  • The language instinct by Steven Pinker
  • How writing came about by Denise Schmandt-Besserat
  • The mountain gorilla : ecology and behavior by George B. Schaller
  • And the band played on : politics, people, and the AIDS epidemic by Randy Shilts
  • The phenomenon of man by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
  • Thought and language by Lev Semenovich Vygotsky ; rev. ed. here
  • Discovering the royal tombs at Ur (1969) by Charles Leonard Woolley


  • The hunters or the hunted? : An introduction to African cave taphonomy by C. K. Brain
  • Syntactic structures by Noam Chomsky
  • A general introduction to psycho-analysis; a course of twenty-eight lectures delivered at the University of Vienna (1920) by Sigmund Freud ; Rev. ed. here
  • Laetoli, A Pliocene site in northern Tanzania by Mary Leakey
  • The !Kung San : men, women, and work in a foraging society by Richard Lee
  • Treasures of prehistoric art by Andre Leroi-Gourhan
  • The society of mind by Marvin Lee Minsky
  • Children's games in street and playground : chasing, catching, seeking, hunting, racing, duelling, exerting, daring, guessing, acting, pretending by Peter and Iona Opie
  • Lectures on conditioned reflexes by Ivan P. Pavlov
  • Clever Hans : the horse of Mr. Von Osten : a contribution to experimental animal and human psychology by Oskar Pfungst


  • Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis
  • Cat's cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  • Tono-Bungay by H. G. Wells
  • Gravity's rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
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