I've recently finished reading Helge Kragh's Quantum Generations and am looking forward to something to read next. I am hoping to find biographies or more information about certain physicists such as Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, Max Born, Max Planck, Enrico Fermi, Paul Dirac, Arnold Sommerfeld, Lev Landau, David Bohm, John Bell, Wolfgang Pauli, or other prominent physicists involved in the development of quantum mechanics. I think some of these people may have interesting lives and am interested in reading just the lives of a single person at once. Does anyone know good biographies on some of these people?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ There are a lot of books like that, and Stack Exchange sites are not really meant for long list questions. The "reference-request" tag is there for requesting a precise reference on a single topic. Furthermore, I wonder whether you tried simply googling around a little bit: It isn't hard to find many of these scientific biographies! :-) $\endgroup$
    – Danu
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 7:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Any good library will have biographies of most people you mention. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 8:38

4 Answers 4


Here are some books I've enjoyed that have a lot of biographical information and context. Most are "popular" biographies, not in-depth scientific studies, however, books by Abraham Pais are exceptional and include good technical material. I also list Richard Rhodes, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" since it is so in-depth and relevant to your question, I think. Rhodes's book is the first in an excellent series. I also include a book on J.C. Maxwell, though he's from the 19th century, he's such an important figure and the book is enjoyable. And I list a terrific biography on Newton because, in addition to the biographical material, it contains lots of good technical information.

And, I agree with the previous post, the book by Graham Farmelo on Dirac was excellent.

"Schrodinger: Life and Thought", by Walter J. Moore

"Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War", by Brandon R. Brow

"Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and The Bomb", by David Cassidy

"The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics was Reborn", Louisa Gilder

"Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality", by Manjit Kumar

"The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age", by Gino Segrè and Bettina Hoerlin

"Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman", by James Gleick

"Henri Poincare: A Scientific Biography", by Jeremy Gray

"Niels Bohr's Times, In Physics, Philosophy, and Polity", by Abraham Pais

"Subtle is the Lord", Abraham Pais

"Inward Bound", by Abraham Pais

"Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science", by David Lindley

"The Making of the Atomic Bomb", by Richard Rhodes

"The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell", by Basil Mahon

"Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton", by Richard S. Westfall


I would like to mention a biography I just finish reading: The Strangest Man - The hidden life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the atom. It has turned out to be not just the best biography but also one of the best books I have ever read. It is a wonderful combination of a life description of a quite "strange man" and a very well written story. As a plus, it contain many adjacent stories about names that you mentioned such as Bohr, Heisenberg, Pauli, Landau, etc, and gives a nice description on how Quantum Mechanics was developed.


I would suggest:

Born, Max, My Life: Recollections of a Nobel Laureate. Taylor & Francis, London, 1978.


Richard Feynman - Certainly you are joking.

I would suggest the biography of J D R Tata: beyond the blue mountains by R M Lala.

He is not a physicist but it a good biography


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.