Books on Natural Science Topics

Updated 3/15/08

Agosta, William, Bombadier Beetles and Fever Trees, A very readable and close up look at chemical warfare and signals in plants and animals.

Berson, Jerome, Chemical Creativity, Wiley VCH, Weinheim Germny, 1999.  This book describes for the chemistry major the reasoning skills and experiments used to solve some of the most fascinating problems in organic chemistry.

Bolles, Edmund, Galileo's Commandment, W. H. Freeman, NY, 1999. A collection of 2500 years of great science writing by the scientists themselves. From Herodotus to Galileo to Darwin to Einstein to Stephen J. Gould.

Calvin, William, How the Shaman Stole the Moon, Bantaam Books, New York, 1991. A discussion of how native Americans and Celts used astronomy.

Crick, Francis. What Mad Pursuit, Basic Books, N.Y., 1988. An autobiography of Nobel Laureate Francis Crick.

Dawkins, Richard, River Out of Eden, Basic Books, New York, 1995. A short (161 pages) and delightful account of the application of Darwinian principles to the passing of DNA coded texts on to the future.

Dawkins, Richard, The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1976. The first book by this remarkable author puts forth the theory of the self-replicating gene.

Dawkins, Richard, Climbing Mount Improbable, W.W. Norton, New York, 1996. A very readable account of evolutionary adaptation as the mechanism for life on earth.

Dawkins, Richard, The Blind Watchmaker, W.W. Norton, New York, 1986. A discussion of why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design.

Dawkins, Richard, Unweaving the Rainbow, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1998. A detailed account of what science is and what science isn't.

Faraday, Michael, The Chemical History of a Candle, Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 2002. An unabridged republication of Farraday's famous six lectures on the chemistry of a candle.

Ferris, Timothy, Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Anchor Books. New York, 1988. A history of cosmology.

Fisher, David E., The Birth of the Earth, Columbia University Press, New York. A discussion of how the earth came to be and how our knowledge of its origins has developed.

Gould, Stephen J., Bully for Brontosaurus, W.W. Norton, New York, 1991. The fifth in a series of collections of his essays originally published each month in the journal Natural History.

Gould, Stephen J., Dinosaur in a Haystack, W.W. Norton, New York, 1995. The seventh in a series of collections of his essays originally published each month in the journal Natural History.

Gould, Stephen J., Eight Little Piggies, W.W. Norton, New York, 1991. The sixth in a series of collections of his essays originally published each month in the journal Natural History.

Gould, Stephen J., Conversations About the End of Time, Fromm International, New York, 1999.  Interviews with Stephen J. Gould, Umberto Eco, Jean-Claude Carriere, and Jeab Delumeau about the meaning of time, its end and its beginning.
Gould, Stephen J., I have Landed, Harmony Books, New York, 2002.  The last collection of Gould’s essays originally published each month in the journal Natural History.  Gould died in April 2002 shortly after this book was published.

Gould, Stephen J., The Lying Stones of Marrakech, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2000. The penultimate essay collection by Gould. I have read them all and this is my favorite.

Gribbin, John, Almost Everyone's Guide to Science, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1999. One of the best accounts available of twentieth century science . Gribben takes the reader on a very understandable tour from subatomic particles through the structure of the universe.

Gribbin, John, In Search of the Double Helix, Bantaam New Age Books, N.Y., 1988. Yet another very interesting account of the events leading up to the discovery of the double helix structure for DNA.

Gribbin, John, Blinded by the Light, Harmony Books, N.Y., 1991. New Theories about the sun and the search for dark matter.

Hazen, Robert M.; Trefil, James, Science Matters, Anch0r Books, New York, 1990. An overview of the fundamentals of science.

Hoffmann, Roald, The Same and Not the Same, Columbia University Press, New York, 1995. An accessible and deep-thinking view of chemistry by the Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann.

Inwood, Stephen, The Man Who Knew Too Much: The Strange and Inventive life of Robert Hooke, MacMillan, London, 2002. An excellent biography of this 17th century scientist.

Issacson, Walter, Einstein, His Life and Universe, Simon and Schuster, NY, 2007. The definitive biography of this famous scientist.

Judson, H. F., The Eighth Day of Creation, Coldspring Harbor Laboratory Press Press, Coldspring Harbor, 1996. (This is a reprint of a book originally published in 1980.) A wonderful account of three important discoveries in 20th century biology: The structure of hemoglobin, the structure and Function of DNA, and the function of RNA.

Keller, E. F., A Feeling for the Organism - The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock, W. H. Freeman and Co., New York, 1983. A detailed biography of the scientific career of Barbara McClintock who received the Nobel Prize in 1983 for her discovery of gene transposition.

King, Ross, Brunelleschi"s Dome: How a Reaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture, Walker amd Co., NY, 2000. A very readable account of the design and construction of the dome of the Santa Maria Del Fiore Church in Florence from 1420 - 1445.

Klawans, Harold L, Newton’s Madness, Harper and Row, New York, 1990.  A very readable account of numerous neurology cases handled by a practicing neurologist.

Kornberg, Arthur, For the Love of Enzymes, Harvard University Press, 1989. An autobiography of Nobel Laureate Arthur Kornberg.

Lindley, David, Degrees Kelvin, John Henry Press, Washington, D.C., 2004. An autobiography of Willism Thompson who became Lord Kelvin after being knighted by Queen Victoria. The book describes Thompson's many contributions to science and technology including his work on absolute zero, thermodynamics, the Trans Atlantic Cable, ship compases, etc.

Mayr, Ernst, What Evolution is, Basic Books, 2001. A wonderful description of the curent thoughts on evolution.

McCarty, Maclyn, The Transforming Principle, W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1985. A fascinating account of the experiments conducted over a ten year period by Ostwald Avery, Maclyn McCarty and Colin MacLeod which resulted in the publication in 1944 of a paper proving that the hereditary material is DNA.

McNichol, Tom, AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2006. The story of the late 19th century bitter fight between George Westonghouse and Thomas Edison over whether elctricity should be transported as AC or DC current.

McPhee, John, Basin and Range, Noonday Press, New York, 1980. Part of a series on geology and geologists. This, the first volume in the series, discusses the geology of the area of the United Sates stretching from eastern Utah to western California. Don't be put off by the rather technical first chapter.

McPhee, John, Anals of the Former World, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York, 1998. If you liked Basin and Range then this is the book for you. It is a collection of six books, including Basin and Range, that gives a very clear delineation of the curent theories of geology. The books develop as a series of field trips along Interstate 80 from New York to San Francisco. A demanding but worthwhile read.

Perutz, Max, I Wish I'd Made You Angry Sooner, Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory Press, 1998. A series of essays by the Nobel Laureate Max Perutz on science and scientists. Included are portraits of Pauling, Meitner, Bragg, Haber, Medawar, Szilard, Jacob, Krebs and others.

Piel, Gerard, The Age of Science, Basic Books, New York , 2001. A very readable account of the major scientific breakthoughs of the 20th century in th areas of astronomy, physics, moledular biology, and anthropology.

Roberts, Royston, Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science, John Wiliey and Sons, , New York, 1989. Many examples form a wide variety of scientific disciplines in which major discoveries were made through serendipity.

Sagan, Carl, The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Random House, New York, 1996. An important discussion of how scientific thinking is necessary to safeguard our democratic institutions and out technological society.

Sayre, Anne, Rosalind Franklin & DNA, W. W. Norton & CO., New York, 1975. A detailed description of Rosalinfd Franklin's involvement in the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. A harsh criticism and rebuttal of Jim Watson's treatment of Rosalind Franklin in his book, The Double Helix.

Shapiro, R., The Human Blueprint, Bantam New Sciences, 1992. A description of the Human Genome Project.

Silver, Brian L., The Ascent of Science, Oxford University Press, New York, 1998. A stimulating historical overview of all areas of natural science. In the author’s own words: "It is not a history of science but rather an account of the major battles, the frequently eccentric generals and the ways in which science has deeply influenced man’s picture of the world and himself."

Sobel, Dava, Galilelo’s Daughter, Penguin Books, New York, 1999. A wonderful biography of Galileo using material in letters written to Galileo by his daughter.

Sobel, Dava, Longitude, Penguin Books, New York, 1995. The story of John Harrison who in the second half of the 18th century built the first clocks capable of keeping time accurately enough to be used at sea in determining logitude.

Sobel, Dava, The Planets, Viking Press, NY 2005. An exploration of the origins and oddities of our solar system.

Thomas, Lewis, The Fragile Species, Collier Books, New York, 1992. This book discusses the great medical puzzles of our age - cancer, AIDS, drug abuse and aging.

Trefil, James, 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Science, Doubleday, New York, 1992. A delightful collection of scientific facts.

Uglow, Jenny, The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed the World, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NY, 2002. A biography of manufacturer Matthew Boulton, engineer James Watt, potter Josiah Wedgewood, scientist Joseph Priestly, and physician Erasmus Darwin who, along with many of their friends, revolutionized 18th century England.

von Baeyer, Hans Christian, Warmth Disperses and Time Passes, Modern Library Paperback, , NY, 1999, This great little book introduces the topics of the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics in a non-mathematical manner.

Watson, James D., The Double Helix, Atheneon Pub., N.Y., 1969. An account, by one of the major players — Nobel Laureate James Watson, of the events in 1952-53 leading up to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.

Weisskopf, Victor, The Joy of Insight: Passions of a Physicist, Basic Books, New York, 1990. A fascinating autobiography of one of the founders of modern physics.

White, Michael, Acid Tongues and Tranquil Dreamers, 2001, Harper Collins, NY. The author examines eight of the most spectacular scientific breakthroughs of the last four centuries and reveals them to be the result of fierce rivalry; from Newton and Liebniz to Bill Gates amd Larry Ellison.

Wilford, John, N., The Map Makers, 2nd Ed., 2000, Vintage Books, NY. A detailed history of map making from the world maps of the Babylonians to the current maps of the universe. A fascinating account of the people involved and their methods.

Wolke, Robert L., What Einstein Didn't Know, Dell, 1997. A humorous but excellent collection of explanations of everyday phenomena.

Wolke, Robert L., What Einstein Told His Barber, Dell, 2000. More of the same explanations of everyday phenomena and just as excellent.