1.1. Rabi, who died in 1988, figures prominently in this book. He spent much of the 1930s measuring, with ever-increasing accuracy, the magnetic properties of the hydrogen nucleus. While I was writing a biography of Rabi, I got to know him well and as I wrote this book he often seemed to be hovering over my shoulder. Rabi has been an enduring presence and I am grateful for his continuing influence.
Norman F. Ramsey, Jr., himself a student of Rabi, has contributed in a major way to twentieth-century physics through his work on the hydrogen atom as well as other outstanding accomplishments. Ramsey has been a strong supporter of my efforts and has been helpful on many occasions, so I would like to offer a special word of thanks to him.
In many conversations with scientists about this book, my confidence in its basic idea has been reinforced. One such conversation was with Steven Weinberg in Austin, Texas. When our paths crossed in Austin, he asked me, "What are you writing?" I told him about the hydrogen book. After a pregnant pause he said, "That's nice ... that's nice. Where did you get that idea? Did Rabi give it to you?" Weinberg was referring to my work with Rabi, who was enchanted by hydrogen. Nonetheless, except for the playful suggestion that I was dependent on Rabi for such an idea, I was pleased by Weinberg's response.
Many other physicists (and nonphysicists) have answered my questions and provided needed information. Among them are Eric J. Chaisson, David Christian, Neil Comins, Eric Cornell, John Eades, Thomas Gallagher, Ted Hansch (whom I often consulted), Craig Hogan, Wolfgang Ketterle, Tom Kinoshita, Dan Kleppner (whom I consulted again and again), Mel Leon, C. J. Martoff, Bert Mobley, Mary Jo Nye, Sharon O'Dair, William Phillips, Carol Pierman, Ronald Reynolds, Alan Rocke, Philip Schewe, Benjamin Stein, Roger Stuewer, Michael Turner, Fred Ulrich, Gart Westerhout, and Carl Wieman. I have surely missed mentioning some individuals, but to those named and unnamed I express my deep appreciation for their help.
When the book was more an idea than binary code, I received a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to support my effort. A major change in my professional life put the manuscript on sustained hold, but no loud noises emanated from the folks at Sloan. I thank the Sloan Foundation for its support and patience.
Michael Fisher and his staff at Harvard University Press have been very generous with their help and advice. I thank them all.
I wrote this book for the general reader—the individual who is interested in the way science progresses and is particularly fascinated by physics. "The general reader" is an abstraction, of course, so I thought of two such "general readers." The first, Eugene Istomin, a world-class concert pianist, reads about physics for pure pleasure. I have enjoyed many conversations with Eugene and I thank him for serving as a shadow reader. Second, there is my son Jonathan, who is a hard-working physician, but reads voraciously and stays informed about advances in physics. He peppers me with questions and sometimes I am hard pressed to provide him with answers. Both Eugene and Jonathan unknowingly guided me in this effort.
Finally, and always, there is my polestar, Diana.
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