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Jean Perrin's Book on Atoms

Jean Perrin, Atoms, Ox Bow Press, 1990 (French original, 1913).

In the Preface of this outstanding book, Perrin writes:

Now, there are cases where hypothesis is, on the contrary, both necessary and fruitful. In studying a machine, we do not confine ourselves only to the consideration of its visible parts, which have objective reality for us only as far as we can dismount the machine. We certainly observe these visible pieces as closely as we can, but at the same time we seek to divine the hidden gears and parts that explain its apparent motions.

To divine in this way the existence and properties of objects that still lie outside our ken, to explain the complications of the visible in terms of invisible simplicity, is the function of the intuitive intelligence which, thanks to men such as Dalton and Boltzmann, has given us the doctrine of Atoms. This book aims at giving an exposition of that doctrine.

It seems to me that the "hidden gears and parts" and the "invisible simplicity" may not be dealt with equally; but this is a small flaw in his presentation. You will be surely impressed by Perrin's careful and detailed study of atoms on the experimental basis. You can have a good view of how experimental research goes.

See Perrin's biography in the Nobel Foundation; he received the Nobel Physics Prize in 1926.


Last modified Jan. 27, 2003. (c) Soshichi Uchii