I have read many books which can guide one in becoming a better theoretician but I haven't come across many books that help one become a better experimental physicist. For some reason the history of science favours the theoreticians and while I admire Lev Landau, Henri Poincaré and Albert Einstein, I would also like to become a better experimentalist.

In this context, I would like to know whether there are books(autobiographies even) which can guide one in becoming a good experimentalist.

  • $\begingroup$ I think because theoretical physics can in general be grouped into 4-5 topics, one can, in principle, have a list of books for theory. But experimental physics is a veeeeeery wide field and if you do not narrow your perspective it is impossible to give any suggestion. $\endgroup$ – physicopath Apr 13 '18 at 8:18
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    $\begingroup$ I enjoyed reading The fly in the cathedral by Brian Cathcart about Rutherford's lab. $\endgroup$ – Pieter Apr 13 '18 at 8:37

I do agree with physicopath that it is hard to contain experimental physics in one book and still capture an appropriate depth. But if you are looking to become a good experimentalist, here is a great book with specifics about varied experiments:

Experiments in Modern Physics by Melissinos and Napolitano. I used this book as a guide for a 3rd year undergraduate lab course in experimental modern physics. This book contains an array of topics ranging from classic quantization experiments (e.g. Milikan oil drop experiment) to basic electronics to spectroscopy (e.g. Zeeman effect). Check out the table of contents to get a better idea of the topics covered (as this book is not all-encompassing). This book repeatedly covers the underlying physics, the experimental apparatus, and the results of each experiment.

As a supplemental text, I also recommend: Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences by Bevington and Robinson. This book covers the typical statistical and math tools that all experimentalists are familiar with (such as error analysis, Monte Carlo methods, and least-squares fitting to name a few).

Additionally, maybe you can clarify as to the type of experimental physics book you are looking for. Are you looking for stories about experimentalist's life or a rigorous textbook?...

Edit: here is a related question.


There is a very good book on experimental methods of physics in German by Friedrich Kohlrausch with the title "Praktische Physik"(i.e. "Practical Physics"). I used this impressive compilation during my studies and later in research. Its first edition appeared more than 100 years ago. Its modern 24th edition has three sizable volumes covering all fields of experimental physics.

It seems that there also exist English editions of this book with the title "An Introduction to Physical Measurements", vol. 1; vol. 2; vol.3. It is not clear whether all three volumes are still available. "https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Kohlrausch+Physics


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