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The fact that he won an unprecedented two Nobel prizes in physics (in 1956 and 1972) may be the only extraordinary thing about John Bardeen. He grew up in a middle-class home in Wisconsin with his doctor father, interior designer mother and four siblings. He apparently worked hard, cared deeply about his family, loved sports, was, by all accounts, a gracious and likable colleague and devoted himself to his graduate students. He was also tenacious in pursuit of answers to complex problems in his discipline. Working with William Shockley and Walter Brattain, Bardeen developed the world's first transistor in 1947 and, ten years later, with J. Robert Schrieffer and Leon Cooper, he created a theory of superconductivity. Hoddeson (Crystal Fire) and Daitch attempt a portrait of this unassuming Midwesterner, but offer little more than a rough sketch. As they write in their preface, "We are painfully aware that this book merely scratches the surface of its subject." Little insight is offered beyond descriptions of Bardeen's friends, co-workers and activities. The authors attempt to provide a conceptual framework by examining "the meaning of true scientific genius," but this is largely done in a superficial, 17-page epilogue. Bardeen deserves more public recognition than he received during his life; this book may help in some measure, but it won't bring readers any closer to the man himself.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"John Bardeen was one of the most important and prolific physicists of the twentieth century, on par with the likes of Niels Bohr and Richard Feynman, but the general public hardly knows his name. In this eloquent and entertaining biography, Lillian Hoddeson captures the true essence of this quiet, gentle genius."
-- Michael Riordan, author of The Hunting of the Quark and coauthor of Crystal Fire
"If we agree that science literacy is key to the 21st century, then True Genius is one of the most important books of our times. Hoddeson and Daitch have created a masterpiece of biography, illuminating the creative work of a scientific genius, but also the human values, strengths and qualities that must guide, moderate and ultimately determine the fruitfulness of the extraordinary mind."
-- Leon M. Lederman, Nobel Laureate, author of The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? and co-author of From Quarks to the Cosmos: Tools of Discovery
"A sensitive and inspiring portrait of one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century. This excellent biography should redefine what it means to be a genius."
-- Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II
"An easy-flowing personal and scientific biography of John Bardeen, who arguably was the most important American physicist. His transistor started modern electronics, the basis of modern technology. Subsequently, he explained superconductivity, a problem which had baffled many other famous physicists."
-- Hans Bethe, Nobel Laureate and Professor Emeritus at Cornell University
"A quiet revolutionary in science was John Bardeen, reticent, deep, intuitive--and a formidable subject for a biographer. Now his science and his personality have been thoughtfully, knowledgeably, lovingly opened up."
-- Horace Freeland Judson, author of The Eighth Day of Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Biology --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.