Ordinary Geniuses: How Two Mavericks Shaped Modern Science (Paperback)
Thanks to Max Delbruck and George Gamow, today we have mapped the human genome and understand the ramifications of the Big Bang. In his characteristically inviting and elegant style, Gino Segre brings to life the story of these two great scientists and their long friendship and offers an accessible inside look the people behind the scenes of science—the collaboration and competition, the quirks and failures, the role of intuition and luck, and the sense of wonder and curiosity that keeps these extraordinary minds going.
An exuberant dual biography that integrates developments in quantum physics, cosmology and genetics since the 1920s with the lives of these two scientists.
Gino Segrè’s fascinating dual biography of George Gamow and Max Delbrück, “Ordinary Geniuses.” Gamow was a theoretical physicist who made an interesting foray into the biology of protein synthesis, while Delbrück was a theoretical physicist who became a biologist and then won the Nobel Prize for his work in genetics.
--Wall Street Journal
In parallel chapters Segrè has sensitively and insightfully narrated chronologically Delbrück and Gamow’s personal and professional lives. And while doing so, he has clearly presented and explained their scientific contributions; the prior works on which they were based; and their present day importance and relevance.
Segrè convincingly shows how the pair’s maverick personalities led to their discoveries, while their restlessness often stopped them seeing their ideas to maturity.
“Ordinary Geniuses makes me wistfully wonder if the world will ever again witness the coming together of such fun-loving intellectual brilliance.”
—James D. Watson, author of The Double Helix
“George Gamow and Max Delbrück were free spirits and practical jokers. They broke away from the mainstream of science in the 1930s and found new ways of thinking that opened the way to new sciences in the 1950s. George invented Big Bang cosmology, and Max invented molecular biology. This book brings them magnificently to life. It gives us a fresh view of the way new sciences are born.”
—Dr. Freeman Dyson, Princeton Institute for Advanced Study
“Ordinary Geniuses is no ordinary book. Gino Segrè, a masterly storyteller, takes us off the beaten path to view two revolutions in twentieth-century science from a novel perspective. By chronicling the lives of two renegade scientists, Max Delbrück and George Gamow, Segrè puts the birth of both molecular biology and modern cosmology in a whole new light. An engaging read.”
—Marcia Bartusiak, author of The Day We Found the Universe
“Gino Segrè is an accomplished scientist, a gifted writer, and a meticulous scholar. His talents come together in this wonderful book, the story of the intertwining careers of two quite amazing scientists. But it is more. It is a loving ode to twentieth-century science and will enthrall as it instructs.”
—Kenneth W. Ford, author of 101 Quantum Questions: What You Need to Know About the World You Can't See; former director, American Institute of Physics
“A marvelous book. Segre describes vividly how Delbruck helped to establish the new science of molecular biology while Gamow went into cosmology and originated our current view of the Big Bang. They both left major impressions on science as might be expected from “ordinary geniuses.””
—Alex Rich, Sedgwick Professor of Biophysics at M.I.T.