From Galileo to Gell-Mann

The Wonder that Inspired the Greatest Scientists of All Time In Their Own Words

Marco Bersanelli Mario Gargantini

Translated by John Bowden

From time to time, the diligent science student huddled over dense volumes of research findings and highly technical data will stumble upon a truly rare treasure: the author's answer to the question of "Why?" Why did the authors of these volumes commit themselves so ardently to life in the laboratory? What was it that motivated them to keep their eye to the microscope for years on end? Why did the world's greatest scientists devote their lives to research—an endeavor where failure is the exponentially more likely outcome than success?

In their anthology, From Galileo to Gell-Mann, Marco Bersanelli and Mario Gargantini have gathered the answers to these fascinating questions from over one hundred of the brightest scientific minds from our past and present. It is a gold mine of insight that previously could only be found hidden deep within thousands of scattershot pages of footnotes from out-of-print journals, rare books, and unpublished papers. Throughout the work, Bersanelli and Gargantini also offer insightful commentary and discussion on the readings.

Among the most remarkable similarities that emerge when one considers together these writings from the likes of Albert Einstein, Gregor Mendel, Marie Curie, and others, is the sense of wonder and outright awe at what the study of the natural world can reveal. From Galileo to Gell-Mannmakes it clear that science and all parallel attempts to understand our human existence—including fields like philosophy and theology—are viewed as nothing less than grand adventures to those that are probing the limits of what we know.

Preface by Duccio Macchetto / ix

Introduction / xiii

1. Wonder / 3

  • Wonder and Reality / 5
  • Wonder and Beauty / 9
  • Wonder and Contemplation / 16
  • Wonder and Curiosity / 21
  • Wonder and Knowledge / 26
  • Wonder and Joy / 31
  • Wonder and Observation / 32

2. Observation / 33

  • Observation and Affection / 36
  • Observation and Preconception / 42
  • Observation and Realism / 49
  • Observation and Question / 53
  • Observation and Experiment / 57

3. Experiment / 61

  • Experiment and Nature / 63
  • Experiment and Method / 70
  • Experiment and Attention / 78
  • Experiment and Discovery / 85

4. Discovery / 89

  • Discovery and Event / 92
  • Discovery and Innovation / 99
  • Discovery and Imagination / 104
  • Discovery and Intuition / 109
  • Discovery and Company / 114
  • Discovery and the Unforeseen / 119
  • Discovery and Gratitude / 127
  • Discovery and Certainty / 130

5. Certainty / 135

  • Certainty and Reality / 138
  • Certainty and Patience / 145
  • Certainty and Limits / 146
  • Certainty and Impossibility / 151
  • Certainty and Knowability / 154
  • Certainty and Person / 158
  • Certainty and Sign / 162

6. Sign 167

  • Sign and Knowledge / 171
  • Sign and Chance / 181
  • Sign and Origin / 188
  • Sign and Mystery / 195
  • Sign and Design / 199
  • Sign and Purpose / 209

7. Purpose / 211

  • Purpose and Responsibility / 214
  • Purpose and Harmony / 227
  • Purpose and Religion / 234
  • Purpose and Morality / 239
  • Purpose and Faith / 243
  • Purpose and Praise / 248

Acknowledgments / 251

Appendix A. Biographical Notes / 255

Appendix B. Glossary / 289

Notes / 303

Index / 313