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I am looking for a book explaining physics from, say, Galileo and Newton till now; the book should be written using some math, similarly to my physics books when I was at the university (Halliday Resnik). I am searching a book that take care of explaining the true "evolution" of reasoning, discoveries, experiment to prove or disprove something.

I do not like a book that gives definitions without explaining what had happened. I also like to find, on that book, explanations on how actual measurements are taken (how can we measure the speed of light, the mass of celestial bodies, the attributes of electron, and how were the measurements taken in the past - how was possible to measure the speed of light in 1700-1800?).

I am not very interested in recent theories like strings, branes.... so it is OK if these are not discussed.

I like to find a lot of discussions on concept that are related, like for instance the implications on space dimensionalities, ether non-existence, strange facts, missing explanations.

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Before answering, please see our policy on resource recommendation questions. Please write substantial answers that detail the style, content, and prerequisites of the book, paper or other resource. Explain the nature of the resource so that readers can decide which one is best suited for them rather than relying on the opinions of others. Answers containing only a reference to a book or paper will be removed!

Asking for a book explaining physics from, say, Galileo and Newton till now seems too broad. I recommend that you narrow it down. – Qmechanic Dec 13 '11 at 9:48
@Qmechanic It reminds me when Sheldon embarked on such a project. – yayu Dec 13 '11 at 10:00
"The evolution of physics" by Einstein and Infeld might be what you are looking for, although it is light on mathematics. – Ron Maimon Dec 16 '11 at 19:17
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Huygens and Barrow, Newton and Hooke by V. I Arnold.

I havent read it, but I am a fan of the author's writing style. He is a celebrated Russian Mathematician and also one of the most highly cited Russian Scientists. Road to reality (which Im currently reading) would also have been a good suggestion but its pretty much all about recent theories, which you're not interested in.

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Thank you. @all_others: Any other suggestion? – user6090 Dec 13 '11 at 12:55

There are two books by Abraham Pais, which are both superb and use enough mathematics to convey the truth of the science.

The first, Subtle is the Lord, is a scientific biography of Einstein.

The second, Inward Bound, tells the story of the development of atomic and particle physics. It covers roughly the epoch from Curie to Weinberg, stopping just short of Wilson.

Silvan Schweber's QED & the Men Who Made it is also very good and similar in flavor.

It should be noted that both books have a significant flaw, which is that they don't really discuss Ken Wilson's work. Wilson explained renormalization, which is the physics at the core of quantum field theory. Much of his predecessors concerns about infinities and the like resulted from doing the computations with unphysical intermediate quantities. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no scientific biography of Wilson.

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