Kerry K. Kuehn

In early 2017, the final volume of my book entitled A Student's Guide through the Great Physics Texts was published by Springer. Details can be found on the publisher's website, and also by clicking on the links to each of the four the individual volumes.

Briefly, the book is based on a four-semester introductory physics curriculum which I have taught for the last decade to undergraduate students of he natural sciences at Wisconsin Lutheran College. Using this book, students read, analyze and discuss many of the foundational texts in physics and astronomy. Generally speaking, the book is designed to encourage a critical and circumspect approach to natural science, while at the same time developing a suitable foundation for advanced coursework in physics. It might be used (i) in the classroom at liberal arts colleges and universities, (ii) by advanced home-schooled and high-school students who want to learn from the classics, (iii) by practicing physicists who wish to acquire a deeper understanding of the foundations of their discipline, and (iv) by humanists, social scientists, and motivated lay readers seeking a thematically-organized source-book in the history and philosophy of science.

Volume 1: The Heavens and the Earth, provides a chronological introduction to the sciences of astronomy and cosmology based on the reading and analysis of significant selections from classic texts, such as Ptolemy’s The Almagest, Kepler’s Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, Shapley’s Galaxies and Lemaître’s The Primeval Atom.

Volume 2: Space, Time and Motion, provides a chronological introduction to the science of motion and rest based on the reading and analysis of significant portions of Galileo’s Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences, Pascal’s Treatise on the Equilibrium of Fluids and the Weight of the Mass of Air, Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, and Einstein’s Relativity.

Volume 3: Electricity, Magnetism and Light, provides a chronological introduction to the electromagnetic theory of light, using selected extracts from classic texts such as Gilbert’s De Magnete, Franklin’s Experiments and Observations on Electricity, and Huygens’ Treatise on Light. Particular attention is given to the works of Faraday, Maxwell and Heaviside, scientists who unified the formerly separate disciplines of electricity, magnetism and light. Their electromagnetic theory—developed during the 19th century—would lead to the invention of modern radar, electrical power grids, and telecommunication networks.

Volume 4: Heat, Atoms and Quanta, provides a chronological introduction to modern atomic theory, which represented an attempt to reconcile the ancient doctrine of atomism with careful experiments—performed during the 19th century—on the flow of heat through substances and across empty space. Included herein are selections from classic texts such as Carnot’s Reflection on the Motive Power of Fire, Clausius’ Mechanical Theory of Heat, Rutherford’s Nuclear Constitution of Atoms, Planck’s Atomic Theory of Matter and Heisenberg’s Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory.