The ABC of Atoms


ISBN 978 0 85124 9292 | £15

Paperback | 220 pages



Bertrand Russell

Long out of print, this new edition of The ABC of Atoms is introduced by Dr David Alexandre Ellwood, a theoretical physicist and former research director of the Clay Mathematics Institute. Dr Ellwood serves on the Executive Committee of British Pugwash. The ABC of Atoms was first published in 1923.

‘It is remarkable that, like Einstein’s theory of gravitation, a great deal of the work on the structure of the atom was done during the war. It is probable that it will ultimately be used for making more deadly explosives and projectiles than any yet invented.’

Bertrand Russell in The ABC of Atoms

As relevant today as it was a century ago, The ABC of Atoms provides a clean, concise introduction to the constituents of matter by an author who is internationally known for his power of writing graphic and simple English, as well as for his own intellectual achievements.

The first few decades of the 20th century were the most exciting in the history of physics, and Bertrand Russell had a front row seat. The discoveries of X-rays (1895), radioactivity (1896) and the electron (1897) unlocked an unparalleled period of experimental creativity and theoretical advance, leading to amazing insights in our knowledge of the material world. Instead of the atom being regarded as an immutable unit of matter, it was found to resemble a miniature solar system, a few billionths of a centimetre in diameter, whose orbital structure is governed by revolutionary new dynamical laws that continue to astound physicists to this day.

In his description of this fascinating microcosm, Bertrand Russell proves the consummate guide, capturing the excitement of the period while providing visionary insights. Covering the basics of atomic structure, early quantum ideas, relativity and the theory of light, the author builds up a comprehensive picture of the ‘new physics’ that was state of the art when it was written, and a veritable launch pad for everything that was to follow. It is an ideal introduction to 20th century physics and the plethora of technological innovations that surround us today, in the clear, simple language for which Russell is famous.