Great Scientific Minds & Ideas - Physics

September Book Chain: Let’s Start with Albert Einstein

When I planned out this year’s reading challenge, the theme I chose for September, in honor of back-to-school month, was “great minds.” As I began deciding which “great minds” to feature for the challenge, I realized that all the people whose biographies and memoirs we’ve read this year have great minds.

Notable individuals such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Julia Child, Abraham Lincoln, Rob Lowe, Coco Chanel, Winston Churchill, and others who appeared on our reading lists have remarkable minds. Their impact on culture, history, and the world around us is indisputable. As it turns out, the entire reading challenge for 2022 is about “great minds.”

But I still like the theme for September. Going back to school, or sending kids back to school, is something no one will ever take for granted again. Music, art, life skills, and history – are all important facets of a well-educated mind.

However, for our challenge this month, we’re going to focus on some great scientific and technological minds. These individuals made lasting contributions to our understanding of the world and how we interact with it and each other.

You don’t need to have a scientific mind yourself to appreciate the talents and abilities of this month’s “great minds.” Are you ready to learn about new – and not-so-new—ideas and the fascinating people who developed them?

List of the Greatest Scientific Minds with Books

History is rife with the stories of people who have pushed the limits of their understanding. They seek to uncover more and more about how the world works, from simple everyday objects to the secrets of the universe and quite literally everything in between.

What leads people to such amazing discoveries? What drives these great minds to continue digging for answers? Are there common threads in the stories of these “great minds” that give insight into what it takes to make a mark on the world? You’re sure to find answers to these questions and more in these enjoyable biographies of just a handful of noteworthy great scientific minds and inventors.

Einstein: His Life and Universe

Walter Isaacson, 2007

E=MC2. We’ve all heard the famous equation that sums up Einstein’s special theory of relativity. But how did his scientific mind work out this theory? Einstein: His Life and Universe is the first biography of Einstein written using all of his personal papers. Mr. Isaacson introduces readers to Albert Einstein, a struggling husband, and father working in a dead-end job whose propensity to question conventional wisdom led him to unlock the secrets of the atom and more. 

After reading this biography, I can’t promise you’ll fully understand the theory of relativity, but you’ll appreciate how curiosity, creativity, and a free spirit were essential characteristics of one of the greatest scientists of the modern era.

Bonus book: Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, by Albert EinsteinThis book is Einstein’s own explanation of his theories. It’s often described as a book that makes his ideas easy to understand. This is the primary source if you’re truly interested in learning more about special and general relativity.

The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World

Randall E. Stross, 2007

How much do you know about Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph and the incandescent lightbulb? This book puts these inventions in perspective so readers can appreciate how astonishing they were for their time.

It also sheds light on Edison’s technical skills, celebrity, and general cluelessness about business and consumers. Amidst his numerous amazing successes lay almost equally colossal failures, the tales of which will leave you speechless. This page-turning biography gives a full look at Edison’s life, how he worked, and the many people who gave shape to his story.

Madame Curie: A Biography

Eve Curie, 1937

Marie Curie’s daughter, Eve, wrote this account of her mother, Marie, the first and only woman to win Nobel Prizes in two different sciences – Physics and Chemistry. Madame Curie pioneered the study of radioactivity with her extensive studies of the elements radium and polonium.

However, a passion for science and research aren’t the only things that made Madame Curie an interesting woman. Her childhood in Poland, her education in Paris, and her efforts to help France during WWI are among the many things that make Marie Curie someone you’ll relish reading about.

The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley

Leslie Berlin, 2005

Robert Noyce holds the patent on the integrated circuit. He and partner Gordon Moore co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel. Noyce was a brilliant inventor; his semiconductor changed the world and is used in every cellphone, computer, video game, and advanced weapon.

You’ve probably never heard of him. This book is the story of a man who loved to create new things and take risks. It is also the true story of Silicon Valley and a business biography that gives the remarkable accomplishments of Noyce the recognition they deserve.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies

Jason Fagone, 2017

Elizebeth Smith Friedman was a brilliant scholar of Shakespeare in 1916 when an American tycoon invited her to use her language skills to break codes during WWI. She and her equally skilled husband, William Friedman, went on to pioneer the science of cryptology, which they used to catch gangsters during prohibition, expose Nazi spy rings, and crack the German and Japanese Enigma machines.

Once you pick up this history of Elizebeth Smith Friedman’s life and the beginnings of modern intelligence services, you won’t be able to put it back down.

Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson, 2011

Walter Isaacson conducted more than 40 personal interviews with Steve Jobs as well as dozens of interviews with family, friends, colleagues, and critics as research for this biography.

Steve Jobs’ passion and drive for perfection completely upended industries. With his signature look and searing personality, he became a cultural icon representing 21st-century technology. Perhaps Jobs’ most lasting contribution was his idea that connecting technology and creativity was the way to create value for consumers. Any project he worked on or directed combined both imagination and engineering.

But Jobs was not an easy man. This biography gives an honest look at a remarkable individual. Jobs participated in this work but allowed Isaacson full control over the final product. The result is a book that is candid, cautionary, and captivating.

Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love

Dava Sobel, 2011

Great Scientific Minds:
Galileos Daughter Book cover
Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel

Albert Einstein called Galileo the father of modern physics and modern science. Galileo was a scientist, through and through. He sought tirelessly to learn all he could about the heavens and man’s place in them by looking through his telescope. He was also a devout Catholic, as was his daughter, Marie Celeste, a cloistered nun, and this book is a tender portrait of both of them.

Their story reveals much about the schism that existed – and continues to exist—between science and religion. If you love drama and scientific adventure, this book is for you.


Great Scientific Ideas with List of Books

Science is fascinating. You don’t have to rely on your high school science class to conjure up the magic of scientific ideas. They are all around us, waiting to be explored, understood, and discovered. The best books about science entertain, enlighten, and educate even if you disliked science in school -perhaps, especially if you disliked it in school. These books about great scientific ideas check all those boxes..

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Dava Sobel, 1995

Early navigators stuck close to shore, used established sailing routes, and looked to the stars to help them fix their positions latitudinally. The great problem was this: once they lost sight of shore, they had no idea where they were longitudinal. They were literally lost at sea. They somewhat knew that clocks were part of the answer, but the clocks of the time used pendulums and other mechanisms that were useless on the waves.

One man – John Harrison – solved the problem with an invention known today as a chronometer. But the road to the solution was not easy and was filled with creative, sometimes bizarre, solutions. One particular idea featured a dog and would make your jaw drop. This book is a quick, delightful read that will give you an all-new appreciation for the bravery of the sea explorers of history.

Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life

Helen Czerski, 2018

Storm in a Teacup is a charming and engaging introduction to physics. Whether you are a science aficionado or a newbie, Czerski’s book will delight and fascinate you. It is well-written in prose that keeps you wanting to know what happens next. She uses ordinary things like popcorn, coffee stains, refrigerator magnets, and big ideas like medical testing and climate change to show how physics provides the tools to understand them all.

If you’ve ever wondered why whales don’t get the bends after diving deep into the ocean, how ducks’ feet stay warm on the ice, or why milk looks like billowing clouds when added to tea, this book is just what you’ve been looking for.

A Short History of Nearly Everything

Bill Bryson, 2003

I read something once that said we could choose to be amazed or dismayed. If you’re yearning to feel amazed rather than dismayed, then take a dive into this entertaining book. Bryson’s dry wit and natural curiosity are on full display here. It’s filled with memorable tales about great scientists and their discoveries.

Will you get the answers to life’s big questions about how everything began and how we got here? Maybe. You’ll have to read the book to find out for yourself.

The God Equation: The Quest for a Theory of Everything

Michio Kaku, 2021

Physicist Michio Kaku set out to find the God Equation – a scientific theory that explains everything and unifies all the known scientific forces. This book is about that search. It covers major milestones in physics and how these big ideas translate into regular life. Even though Michio Kaku has a great scientific mind, this isn’t heavy reading. Kaku is engaging and easy to understand. It is truly a book about science that enlightens and entertains.

Take a Deeper Dive into Scientific Minds and Big Ideas

Science is a topic that touches each of us personally every single day. We carry high-tech computers in our pockets. We cook in microwaves and read books about science with the help of LED lighting. Great books about science have the power to transform these and other technical ideas and subjects into compelling and illuminating reads. There are thousands of books about great science and scientists, and you can find them all – or at least many – at Discover Books.

In fact, there are so many that next month will be “Scientific Minds – Part 2.” This month’s focus was physics and technology. Next month we’ll explore medicine and related topics, so be sure to subscribe to the challenge here, so you don’t miss out.

Choose to be amazed. Choose to discover the world of great scientific minds at Add these and other titles to your shopping cart today. For last month’s reading challenge, click here.

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