Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Suspended in Language: Niels Bohr's life, discoveries, and the century he shaped

One of the most influential and important scientists of the 20th century, Niels Bohr won the 1922 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on determining the structure of atoms and went on to lay out important ideas in the conception of quantum mechanics. His model of electron orbits, although not technically correct, still is used to teach elementary chemistry and physics. This graphic biography follows Neils over his life, from his days as a fumbling doctoral student to his career as a professor and mentor to some of the most important scientists of the day. Many of the scientists who went his institute won Nobel Prizes of their own.

Also, this book details the harrowing days when he was held under house arrest by Nazis and eventually escaped to the US where he worked on the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. It also follows his many efforts to redirect the course of political action regarding the development of nuclear weapons. In the course of this book some of his most important theories and discoveries are illustrated and explained. His influence is still felt in the field of physics, and his name lives on via the prestigious Neils Bohr Institute in his native Denmark.

Suspended in Language is the product of Jim Ottaviani, Leland Purvis, and a host of other contributors. Ottaviani is a librarian and ex-nuclear engineer who has written a shelf-full of science themed graphic novels. Purvis is an artist known for his work on various webcomics and the Resistance series of graphic novels published by First Second. The other artists illustrate a number of back-matter comics that shed further light on Bohr's life and work.

This graphic biography has been generally well received, even by non-physicists. Johanna Draper Carlson wrote that she appreciated the "playful tone" of the book and also that "one can’t read this book without being affected." Rick the Internet Librarian commented that although this book is not an easy read it is "a good introduction to a major twentieth century scientist and the world he helped create." Time Magazine's Andrew Arnold called the book both "educational and entertaining."

A preview and more information are available here from the book's publisher G.T. Labs.

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