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Fritz Zwicky biography.


ollypenrice
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https://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/B07TD6CX1B/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_d_asin_title_o00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I'm about half way through this new biography and am enjoying it. While I don't think it's the best-written biography I've ever read I must say I'm finding it hard to put down. Zwicky certainly merits a substantial biography and turns out to be much more than the irascible conflict-monger which is how he often appears in histories of science. He had a considerable input into early rocketry and, in his spare time, was an accomplished and rock-hard alpinist. All interesting stuff.  I bought the Kindle edition which is quite pricey but that's probably because it's a recent release. No regrets though, it's compulsive.

Olly

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I just finished the book this morning and am more glad than ever that I read it. While the chronology is sometimes a little disjointed, leading to moments of repetition, and while I was never entirely convinced that the author had really found Fritz Zwicky, this man had such a huge personality that an imperfect portrait can still be resoundlingly worth studying.

About the only Bill Bryson book I haven't read is his Short History of Nearly Everything. According to Zwicky's biographer, Bryson rather plays Zwicky for laughs and quotes his scientific detractors. If so, this won't do at all because Zwicky, at his best, was one of the most penetrating astronomers in the history of science. His prediction of the neutron star some 35 years ahead of the Crab Pulsar discovery and his discovery of the missing mass/dark matter problem speak for themselves. Let's hear it for Fritz Zwicky!

Olly

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  • 2 weeks later...
On ‎05‎/‎11‎/‎2019 at 09:25, ollypenrice said:

.... Zwicky, at his best, was one of the most penetrating astronomers in the history of science. His prediction of the neutron star some 35 years ahead of the Crab Pulsar discovery and his discovery of the missing mass/dark matter problem speak for themselves. Let's hear it for Fritz Zwicky!

Olly

For sure. I've just finished my copy this morning.

 

I feel it's also worth mentioning Zwicky's determination. He spent thousands of hours using relatively poor equipment hunting for the first 'looked for' supernovae. It took several years.

 

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I will get a copy of this, as I was just this morning reading the fascinating book BANG the complete history of the universe, by Brian May, Patric Moore (no Sir) and Chris Lintott. In the back pages are short biographies of the most important and Zwicky certainly stood out. His picture is highly animated and I thought about posting it here but I am aware there is something called copyright law.

Marv

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On 22/11/2019 at 21:07, Marvin Jenkins said:

I will get a copy of this, as I was just this morning reading the fascinating book BANG the complete history of the universe, by Brian May, Patric Moore (no Sir) and Chris Lintott. In the back pages are short biographies of the most important and Zwicky certainly stood out. His picture is highly animated and I thought about posting it here but I am aware there is something called copyright law.

Marv

I think the picture in question is very well known and probably hasn't done much for Zwicky's reputation. A link does not infringe copyright. Might it be this one?

https://www.google.com/search?q=fritz+zwicky&rlz=1C1CHBF_enFR821FR821&sxsrf=ACYBGNRzCKp2s9Xxko6_x1a06zff9_3Z_Q:1574619720277&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiH-9TIu4PmAhXwDmMBHcRvCe8Q_AUoAXoECBMQAw&biw=1536&bih=750#imgrc=4g2nFfpakmssKM:

Olly

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On 24/11/2019 at 19:22, ollypenrice said:

I think the picture in question is very well known and probably hasn't done much for Zwicky's reputation. A link does not infringe copyright. Might it be this one?

https://www.google.com/search?q=fritz+zwicky&rlz=1C1CHBF_enFR821FR821&sxsrf=ACYBGNRzCKp2s9Xxko6_x1a06zff9_3Z_Q:1574619720277&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiH-9TIu4PmAhXwDmMBHcRvCe8Q_AUoAXoECBMQAw&biw=1536&bih=750#imgrc=4g2nFfpakmssKM:

Olly

Yep that’s the one.

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10 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

It's certainly a classic!

I was certainly taken aback by how aggressive he is reported to have been. I know there are rules on here for keeping it clean and I have seen some comments about swear words in inverted commas with the central letters missing, to leave it to our imaginations not being acceptable.

However, this is the work product of Sir Patrick Moore, Brian May, and Chris Lintott I am going to quote. (Despite copyright law as I am going to also say buy this amazing book, perhaps their legal team won’t kill me)

”He references to his colleagues as “Spherical B’st...s” Spherical, because they appeared to be “B’st...s” no matter which direction you looked at them from.

According to this record he threatened the life of Walter Baade who was a colleague at the same university simply for being German at the time of WW2.

What an unusual guy. Clearly exceptional in his field but I am unclear as to how to feel about him as a fellow member of the human race.

Marv

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  • 1 year later...

My review of the book is posted on Amazon:

This is another lamentable effort due to the glaring biographical omissions and also repetitive parroting of stale anecdotes. My father's memory is not served or honored when a concealed established guard allegedly seeks to navigate his legacy or displaces key actors. It is the historian's responsibility to ensure an inclusive recording. The advancement of bringing the gravitational phenomena of Dark Matter to light would have been unsealed from the echoes of my father's work regardless of the prevailing resistant hierarchical powers, and the scientific establishment's obfuscation and spherical resistance to my father's work that he encountered on a continuum.

Addendum December 2019
For clarification, I was not contacted by the author of this book and was denied any contribution. Johnson, apparently by design, presents a selective narrative influenced by those who I believe contributed to advance an agenda of self-promotion, rather than an inclusive historical record including their inconvenient truths which upset my father greatly. The omissions are so many and the exclusion so blatant, that the book does not do justice to my father or his memory and denies the interested reader insight into this great scientist, humanitarian, and family man.

Clarification regarding the embellished and fabricated anecdotes that should not be parroted on a continuum to sensationalize the memory of a decedent:

1. The photo is taken out of context and is one in a series depicting a humorous narrative and isolated on its own serves to malign my father's image. I was present when the photos were taken.

2. It is a blatant falsehood and fabrication that Baade was threatened by my father and only irresponsible individuals continue to parrot the narrative. There are thousands of Zwicky galaxies; Baade falsey took credit

for one discovery naming the galaxy after himself. This was exposed and the incorrect designation corrected to a Zwicky Galaxy. My father never spoke to Baade again. 

3. The bullet endeavor was a controlled and valid experiment; the night assistant, Ben Traxler, wrote to me shortly before his passing very upset about the deliberate efforts to distort the experiment by irresponsible authors.

4. The reference to spherical colleagues was labeling their nescience to truth, scientific advancement and "bulges of trash in the scientific journals to hide their shortcomings." It identified their deficient group think, 

professional jealousy, and shortcomings and was never a term that I heard used against any one individual. Never happened. 

 

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4 hours ago, Barbarina said:

My review of the book is posted on Amazon:

This is another lamentable effort due to the glaring biographical omissions and also repetitive parroting of stale anecdotes. My father's memory is not served or honored when a concealed established guard allegedly seeks to navigate his legacy or displaces key actors. It is the historian's responsibility to ensure an inclusive recording. The advancement of bringing the gravitational phenomena of Dark Matter to light would have been unsealed from the echoes of my father's work regardless of the prevailing resistant hierarchical powers, and the scientific establishment's obfuscation and spherical resistance to my father's work that he encountered on a continuum.

Addendum December 2019
For clarification, I was not contacted by the author of this book and was denied any contribution. Johnson, apparently by design, presents a selective narrative influenced by those who I believe contributed to advance an agenda of self-promotion, rather than an inclusive historical record including their inconvenient truths which upset my father greatly. The omissions are so many and the exclusion so blatant, that the book does not do justice to my father or his memory and denies the interested reader insight into this great scientist, humanitarian, and family man.

Clarification regarding the embellished and fabricated anecdotes that should not be parroted on a continuum to sensationalize the memory of a decedent:

1. The photo is taken out of context and is one in a series depicting a humorous narrative and isolated on its own serves to malign my father's image. I was present when the photos were taken.

2. It is a blatant falsehood and fabrication that Baade was threatened by my father and only irresponsible individuals continue to parrot the narrative. There are thousands of Zwicky galaxies; Baade falsey took credit

for one discovery naming the galaxy after himself. This was exposed and the incorrect designation corrected to a Zwicky Galaxy. My father never spoke to Baade again. 

3. The bullet endeavor was a controlled and valid experiment; the night assistant, Ben Traxler, wrote to me shortly before his passing very upset about the deliberate efforts to distort the experiment by irresponsible authors.

4. The reference to spherical colleagues was labeling their nescience to truth, scientific advancement and "bulges of trash in the scientific journals to hide their shortcomings." It identified their deficient group think, 

professional jealousy, and shortcomings and was never a term that I heard used against any one individual. Never happened. 

 

I think that anyone who had not read the book but had read your reply might get the impression that the biography was openly hostile and disrespectful towards your father. Sincerely, that is not the impression I carried away from it. I'm an amateur reader of astronomy history and have come across the cliché portrayal of Fritz Zwicky plenty of times. I've never been persuaded by this portrayal because it smelled of the easy and oft-repeated joke or even of the cheap joke.  For me the book demolished all that and presented a man whom I would love to have met.  Perhaps it didn't go far enough in doing so? You're in a far better position to know that than most people.

As for inaccuracies, I'm afraid that I'm not in a position to know. However, I don't like to be misled and am happy to read your corrections respectfully.

I posted an endorsement of the book precisely because I thought it re-positioned Fritz Zwicky into more favourable light and I'm both sorry and upset to find that my endorsement might give you the opposite impression. I regard him as one of the great astronomers of his century - and it was a century with many outstanding astronomers.

Best wishes,

Olly Penrice.

 

Edited by ollypenrice
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Thank you all for the kind words.

It would serve the historical record about my father best to ensure that the anecdotes are recognized for what they are;

staged and embellished complaints from the stale oral histories by colleagues exposed for their inferior and often failed work.

The cowardly effort was done in collusion by many after my father's passing and not during his lifetime, where he would have

mounted a defense and exposed their lack of achievement and jealousy further. 

The devastating sequelae to scientific advancement is seen in the failed and very expensive effort to explain Dark Matter

by the world's finest institutions.  Rather than malign a brilliant and bold visionary, they should have supported his lifetime's body of work

and accomplishments in 1933 going forward when my father first identified Dark Matter. 

I am attaching his article for reference which I co-translated with Johannes Nicolai Meyling. 

Redshift Extragalactic Nebulae FZwicky Reduced.pdf

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Thanks for this paper Barbarina- I just started reading it and it’s very interesting already- how they still referred to other galaxies as nebulae! He mentions the size and distance to Andromeda galaxy early on and the values he gives seem to be out by a factor 2 (huge!). This is based on Cepheid measurements. How could they have got it so wrong and when and how did we get the figure we now “know”?

Mark

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11 hours ago, markse68 said:

Thanks for this paper Barbarina- I just started reading it and it’s very interesting already- how they still referred to other galaxies as nebulae! He mentions the size and distance to Andromeda galaxy early on and the values he gives seem to be out by a factor 2 (huge!). This is based on Cepheid measurements. How could they have got it so wrong and when and how did we get the figure we now “know”?

Mark

Basically it turned out that there were different types of Cepheid. In the usual rendition of the story, this discovery is credited to Walter Baader and dates from the 1940s. (Given his many collaborations with Fritz Zwicky and the bad blood which grew up between them, I'll say clearly that I don't know whether this particular priority is disputed or not.) I've certainly read that Hubble was less than pleased to find his distance estimate doubled but he did not dispute the findings so far as I know.  Curiously, perhaps, Hubble never adopted the term 'Andromeda galaxy' himself, sticking with 'nebula' to the end. Nor did he entirely accept that what he had discovered in the redshift-distance correlation was the expansion of the universe. He was confident in the measurements themselves but remained agnostic as to their cause.

Olly

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