100 books like Michael Faraday and The Royal Institution

By John M. Thomas,

Here are 100 books that Michael Faraday and The Royal Institution fans have personally recommended if you like Michael Faraday and The Royal Institution. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton

Andrew Zangwill Author Of A Mind Over Matter: Philip Anderson and the Physics of the Very Many

From my list on biographies of physicists.

Who am I?

I am a physics professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Ten years ago, I switched my research focus from solid-state physics to the history of that subject. This was fertile ground because professional historians of science had almost completely ignored solid-state physics. I began my new career by writing two journal articles about the physicist Walter Kohn and his discovery of what became the most accurate method known to calculate the properties of solids. This experience led me to broaden my perspective and ultimately produce a biography of the theoretical physicist Philip Anderson. My next book will be a historical-sociological study of self-identity and disciplinary boundaries within the community of physicists.  

Andrew's book list on biographies of physicists

Andrew Zangwill Why did Andrew love this book?

Don’t let the length (over 900 pages) of this biography put you off. Instead, immerse yourself in the slow and powerful current of author Richard Westfall’s superbly written and richly detailed portrait of the skills, achievements, and obsessions of the singular genius that was Isaac Newton. Westfall explains in a masterful way Newton’s mathematics, his physics, his heretical theology, his fixation with alchemy, his activities running the Royal Mint, and his disputes with other scientists. These features, and Westfall’s evocative description of the intellectual and social milieu of Newton’s 17th-century world, make Never at Rest a compelling read.   

By Richard S. Westfall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Never at Rest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This richly detailed 1981 biography captures both the personal life and the scientific career of Isaac Newton, presenting a fully rounded picture of Newton the man, the scientist, the philosopher, the theologian, and the public figure. Professor Westfall treats all aspects of Newton's career, but his account centres on a full description of Newton's achievements in science. Thus the core of the work describes the development of the calculus, the experimentation that altered the direction of the science of optics, and especially the investigations in celestial dynamics that led to the law of universal gravitation.


Book cover of Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics

Andrew Zangwill Author Of A Mind Over Matter: Philip Anderson and the Physics of the Very Many

From my list on biographies of physicists.

Who am I?

I am a physics professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Ten years ago, I switched my research focus from solid-state physics to the history of that subject. This was fertile ground because professional historians of science had almost completely ignored solid-state physics. I began my new career by writing two journal articles about the physicist Walter Kohn and his discovery of what became the most accurate method known to calculate the properties of solids. This experience led me to broaden my perspective and ultimately produce a biography of the theoretical physicist Philip Anderson. My next book will be a historical-sociological study of self-identity and disciplinary boundaries within the community of physicists.  

Andrew's book list on biographies of physicists

Andrew Zangwill Why did Andrew love this book?

Skip the documentaries. Lise Meitner’s dramatic story is much better told in this meticulously researched and well-written biography. Meitner became the second woman in the world to earn a PhD in physics and then left her native Vienna for Berlin where she began a thirty-year collaboration with chemist Otto Hahn working on radioactive substances. They discovered nuclear fission in 1938, just when Meitner’s Jewishness forced her to flee Nazi Germany for Sweden. Unjustly, Hahn never acknowledged her equal contribution to the discovery when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945. This sensitive biography helps right a historical wrong. 

By Ruth Lewin Sime,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lise Meitner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lise Meitner (1878-1968) was a pioneer of nuclear physics and co-discoverer, with Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann, of nuclear fission. Braving the sexism of the scientific world, she joined the prestigious Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry and became a prominent member of the international physics community. Of Jewish origin, Meitner fled Nazi Germany for Stockholm in 1938 and later moved to Cambridge, England. Her career was shattered when she fled Germany, and her scientific reputation was damaged when Hahn took full credit - and the 1944 Nobel Prize - for the work they had done together on nuclear fission. Ruth…


Book cover of Schrodinger: Life and Thought

Andrew Zangwill Author Of A Mind Over Matter: Philip Anderson and the Physics of the Very Many

From my list on biographies of physicists.

Who am I?

I am a physics professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Ten years ago, I switched my research focus from solid-state physics to the history of that subject. This was fertile ground because professional historians of science had almost completely ignored solid-state physics. I began my new career by writing two journal articles about the physicist Walter Kohn and his discovery of what became the most accurate method known to calculate the properties of solids. This experience led me to broaden my perspective and ultimately produce a biography of the theoretical physicist Philip Anderson. My next book will be a historical-sociological study of self-identity and disciplinary boundaries within the community of physicists.  

Andrew's book list on biographies of physicists

Andrew Zangwill Why did Andrew love this book?

This biography brings fully to life the multi-faceted Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger. Although best known as the co-inventor of quantum mechanics, he later wrote a book called What is Life which inspired many physicists to apply their talents to biology. Moore gives a full account of Schrödinger’s upbringing, his education, his science, and his extensive philosophical writings. You can judge for yourself if Moore is persuasive when he argues that the erotic intensity of several of Schrödinger’s extramarital affairs helped fuel and found expression in some of his specific scientific achievements. 

By Walter J. Moore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Schrodinger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Erwin Schroedinger was a brilliant and charming Austrian, a great scientist, and a man with a passionate interest in people and ideas. In this, the first comprehensive biography of Schroedinger, Walter Moore draws upon recollections of Schroedinger's friends, family and colleagues, and on contemporary records, letters and diaries. Schroedinger's life is portrayed against the backdrop of Europe at a time of change and unrest. His best-known scientific work was the discovery of wave mechanics, for which he was awarded the Nobel prize in 1933. However, Erwin was also an enthusiastic explorer of the ideas of Hindu mysticism, and in the…


Book cover of Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center

Andrew Zangwill Author Of A Mind Over Matter: Philip Anderson and the Physics of the Very Many

From my list on biographies of physicists.

Who am I?

I am a physics professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Ten years ago, I switched my research focus from solid-state physics to the history of that subject. This was fertile ground because professional historians of science had almost completely ignored solid-state physics. I began my new career by writing two journal articles about the physicist Walter Kohn and his discovery of what became the most accurate method known to calculate the properties of solids. This experience led me to broaden my perspective and ultimately produce a biography of the theoretical physicist Philip Anderson. My next book will be a historical-sociological study of self-identity and disciplinary boundaries within the community of physicists.  

Andrew's book list on biographies of physicists

Andrew Zangwill Why did Andrew love this book?

The brilliant and enigmatic Robert Oppenheimer was the man who led the effort to create the atomic bomb at Los Alamos during World War II.  I value this biography because author Ray Monk does full justice to his subject’s science—the science that put Oppenheimer’s  Berkeley research group at the center of American theoretical physics in the 1930s. Best of all, Monk’s elegant writing makes even familiar episodes come alive. I felt I was watching a car crash in slow motion as I read how Oppenheimer’s complex personality and political naivete led him to underestimate his political enemies and wind up stripped of his security clearance and his influence as a government advisor.  

By Ray Monk,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Robert Oppenheimer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unforgettable story of discovery and unimaginable destruction and a major biography of one of America’s most brilliant—and most divisive—scientists, Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center vividly illuminates the man who would go down in history as “the father of the atomic bomb.” Oppenheimer’s talent and drive secured him a place in the pantheon of great physicists and carried him to the laboratories where the secrets of the universe revealed themselves. But they also led him to contribute to the development of the deadliest weapon on earth, a discovery he soon came to fear. His attempts to resist the…


Book cover of The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom

David N. Schwartz Author Of The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age

From my list on the lives of 20th century physicists.

Who am I?

My dad was a Nobel Prize-winning particle physicist who co-discovered the muon neutrino, a particle whose existence was first explained by Fermi. I am not a physicist myself but grew up around physicists and have always been fascinated by them and was lucky to have met many of the great 20th century physicists myself – through my father. My family background enabled me to know these great scientists not only as scientists but as people.  

David's book list on the lives of 20th century physicists

David N. Schwartz Why did David love this book?

Dirac was one of the creators of modern quantum physics. His theoretical contributions are astonishing in their insights and their power. He was, as the title says, a very strange man: painfully shy, laconic in the extreme, and socially awkward. He spoke so rarely that his colleagues at Cambridge used to joke that “a dirac” was a unit of measurement equal to one word an hour. Farmelo is a fine writer and gives a lay reader a deep understanding of why Dirac is considered such a giant in the field.

By Graham Farmelo,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Strangest Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Paul Dirac was among the greatest scientific geniuses of the modern age. One of Einstein's most admired colleagues, he helped discover quantum mechanics, and his prediction of antimatter was one of the greatest triumphs in the history of physics. In 1933 he became the youngest theoretician ever to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. Dirac's personality, like his achievements, is legendary. The Strangest Man uses previously undiscovered archives to reveal the many facets of Dirac's brilliantly original mind.


Book cover of The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World

Tamim Ansary Author Of The Invention of Yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection

From my list on the human story as a single whole.

Who am I?

Tamim Ansary is the son of an Afghan father and an American mother.  As a writer, growing up in Afghanistan and growing old in America has drawn him to issues that arise from cultural confusion in zones where civilizations overlap. His books include histories and memoirs, which he considers two sides of the same coin: a memoir is history seen up close, history is memoir seen from a distance.  Much of his work explores how perspective shapes perceptions of reality—a central theme of his best-known book, Destiny Disrupted, A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes.

Tamim's book list on the human story as a single whole

Tamim Ansary Why did Tamim love this book?

Yes, yes, history is an unbroken river of themes, but it’s also a chain of pivotal dramatic episodes. Dolnick gives us one such moment. In 17th century Europe, within two generations, a collection of brilliant oddballs invented science. They’re people, so they’re doing the sorts of things people do, elbowing and shoving one another to find the ultimate truth before the other guy. I appreciate that in the course of reading such a wonderfully enjoyable story, I somehow learn a great deal about the truth they were seeking, the underlying mathematical order of the universe in which they believed.

By Edward Dolnick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Clockwork Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Edward Dolnick’s smoothly written history of the scientific revolution tells the stories of the key players and events that transformed society.” — Charlotte Observer

From New York Times bestselling author Edward Dolnick, the true story of a pivotal moment in modern history when a group of strange, tormented geniuses—Isaac Newton chief among them—invented science and remade our understanding of the world.

At a time when the world was falling apart— in an age of religious wars, plague, and the Great Fire of London—a group of men looked around them and saw a world of perfect order. Chaotic as it looked,…


Book cover of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Kristen O'Neal Author Of Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses

From my list on when something queer’s afoot.

Who am I?

It’s great for me, personally, that queer means both strange and gay, in some way, because I’m both. I love writing stories that are zany, bizarre, and supernatural, but still grounded in the real world; giving detail to the strangeness makes it feel more real, like something that could have happened to a friend of a friend. I’m particularly moved by stories that work on both the literal and metaphorical level – being a werewolf is a metaphor for being queer and chronically ill, but my werewolf, Brigid, is also a chronically ill lesbian. Here are five of my favorite books that capture both definitions of the word queer. 

Kristen's book list on when something queer’s afoot

Kristen O'Neal Why did Kristen love this book?

Natasha Pulley’s grounded historical novel marries detailed research of late-19th-century England and Japan with something stranger and more fantastical – but these elements together heighten the narrative. Clerk Thaniel Steepleton’s relationship with clockwork-maker Keita Mori centers the story – they change one another in ways that even fate can’t completely anticipate. There’s a lot of tenderness between them, and it captures the way that falling in love can feel like meeting someone again, instead of for the first time. Also, there’s a pet clockwork octopus. That’s vital. 

By Natasha Pulley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Watchmaker of Filigree Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE AUTHORS' CLUB BEST FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2016 SHORTLISTED FOR THE BETTY TRASK PRIZE 2016 FINALIST FOR THE LOCUS FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2016 An International Bestseller - A Guardian Summer Read - An Amazon Best Book of the Month - A Goodreads Best Book of the Month - A Buzzfeed Summer Read - A Foyles Book of the Month - AHuffington Post Summer Read - A Yorkshire Post Book of the Week In 1883, Thaniel Steepleton returns to his tiny flat to find a gold pocketwatch on his pillow. But he has worse fears than generous burglars; he…


Book cover of “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”

John Staddon Author Of The New Behaviorism: Foundations of Behavioral Science

From my list on how science works, fails to work and pretends to work.

Who am I?

John Staddon is James B. Duke Professor of Psychology, and Professor of Biology emeritus. He got his PhD at Harvard and has an honorary doctorate from the Université Charles de Gaulle, Lille 3, France. His research is on the evolution and mechanisms of learning in humans and animals, the history and philosophy of psychology and biology, and the social-policy implications of science. He's the author of over 200 research papers and five books including Adaptive Behavior and Learning, The New Behaviorism: Foundations of behavioral science, 3rd edition, Unlucky Strike: Private health and the science, law and politics of smoking, 2nd edition and Science in an age of unreason.  

John's book list on how science works, fails to work and pretends to work

John Staddon Why did John love this book?

Richard Feynman was unique. A brilliant theoretical physicist, humorous, eccentric, and independent.

Feynman’s genius gave him a certain freedom, which he exploited to the full. The book is autobiographical and shows his often irresponsible behavior but also a relentless curiosity, and willingness to try anything, the essence of a successful scientist.

One cannot hope to imitate Feynman (and perhaps we should not: he was often mischievous, even mildly malicious); but any scientist should envy the way he approached problems in engineering as well as science—and the book is fun!

By Richard P. Feynman,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard P. Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, thrived on outrageous adventures. In this lively work that "can shatter the stereotype of the stuffy scientist" (Detroit Free Press), Feynman recounts his experiences trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and cracking the uncrackable safes guarding the most deeply held nuclear secrets-and much more of an eyebrow-raising nature. In his stories, Feynman's life shines through in all its eccentric glory-a combustible mixture of high intelligence, unlimited curiosity, and raging chutzpah.

Included for this edition is a new introduction by Bill Gates.


Book cover of My Dear Li: Correspondence, 1937-1946

Abby Smith Rumsey Author Of Memory, Edited: Taking Liberties with History

From my list on when history gets personal.

Who am I?

It was in 1982, while a Fulbright scholar in the USSR researching my doctoral dissertation, that I realized my responsibility as a historian extended far beyond writing history books. I lived among Russians and saw up close how the Kremlin-controlled what citizens knew about their own past. The future was already determined—the end of class struggle. The past was merely a made-up prologue. As a consequence of that year, I focus on the creation, preservation, and accessibility of cultural knowledge. History clues us into where we come from. Like a DNA test, it reveals how our single life is intricately braided with people we will never meet.

Abby's book list on when history gets personal

Abby Smith Rumsey Why did Abby love this book?

I wrote my books to reveal how a government’s lies about the present and past corrupts not only public life, but reaches deep into the psyches of individuals.

The correspondence between the physicist Heisenberg, working in secret on the atomic bomb (notoriously unsuccessfully), and his wife safe in Bavaria provides an intimate glimpse of how deeply the Nazi regime penetrated family life and challenged the natural love of one’s homeland.

Heisenberg and his wife were very much in love, devoted to each other and their children. They had a true and equal partnership. Readers can enjoy the sweet irony of knowing how the war turned out, something the participants could not know.

Instead, they were occupied with worries about food, money, the children’s health, sadly aware that things could never go back to how they were.   

By Werner Heisenberg, Elisabeth Heisenberg, Irene Heisenberg (translator) , Anna Maria Hirsch-Heisenberg (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Dear Li as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Personal letters reveal the quandary of a prominent German physicist during the Nazi years and the strength he shared with his loving wife

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Werner Heisenberg lived far from his wife, Elisabeth, during most of the Second World War. An eminent scientist, Werner headed Germany's national atomic research project in Berlin, while Elisabeth and their children lived more safely in Bavaria. This selection of more than 300 letters exchanged between husband and wife reveals the precarious nature of Werner's position in the Third Reich, Elisabeth's increasingly difficult everyday life as the war progressed, and the devoted relationship that…


Book cover of On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein

Andi Diehn Author Of Forces: Physical Science for Kids

From my list on children’s books about physics.

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by how the world works. What gives gravity so much power? Why is it easier to lift things with levers and pulleys? Why do we have electricity inside of our own bodies?! The world is amazing. My job editing nonfiction books for kids puts me on the front lines of some of the smartest science writing out there. While I had no hand in the making of the following five picture books about physics, they are still some of my favorites because of the way they peel back the mysterious layers of the world to show us the science hidden in our daily lives.

Andi's book list on children’s books about physics

Andi Diehn Why did Andi love this book?

You can’t talk physics without talking Einstein! This beautiful book explores Einstein’s curiosity and drive to know more, which began when he was young. His journey from nonverbal child to brilliant scientist is fascinating and inspiring for all kinds of readers.

By Jennifer Berne, Vladimir Radunsky (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked On a Beam of Light as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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