It is the task of general education to provide the kinds of learning and experience that will enable the student . . . to apply habits of scientific thought to both personal and civic problems, and to appreciate the implications of scientific discoveries for human welfare . . .; [to] bring to the general student understanding of the fundamental nature of the physical world in which be lives and of the skills by which this nature is discerned. That the student grasp the processes involved in scientific thought and understand the principles of scientific method is even more important than that be should know the data of the sciences.
The aim of the editors in preparing Readings in the Physical Sciences is stated succinctly in the above quotation from Higher Education for American Democracy (A Report of the President's Commission on Higher Education, Washington, December, 1947). To obtain the selections, many books and articles were examined. The emphasis has been on contemporary work. Such emphasis is necessary because of the rapid advance of the physical sciences in recent years. But also an attempt has been made to give the student historical perspective on each individual science. The selections have been drawn largely from writings in the English language, for translations frequently lack the flair that is apt to excite the imagination of the student; moreover, almost all the topics which rightfully belong in a Readings of this sort have been discussed in English in more than adequate fashion.
We have attempted to select articles that will be read for their intrinsic interest, even though a number of technical selections are included. It is hoped that in this way the student will be induced to continue reading on his own volition; to help him an extensive bibliography is appended. Short biographical sketches and an index have also been included.
The thanks of the editors are extended to the various publishers and authors who have granted permission to reprint. For their helpful suggestions in both over-all planning and in the selection of individual articles, the editors also thank: S. G. Bergquist, Michigan State College; J. W. Buchta, University of Minnesota; William E. Cadbury, Jr., Haverford College; R. H. Carleton, Michigan State College; Sidney J. French, Colgate University; J. Osborn Fuller, Ohio State University; C. E. Hesthal, Ohio State University; C. L. Henshaw, Colgate University; C. J. Lapp, National Research Council; J. W. McGrath, Kent State University; S. R. Powers, Teachers College, Columbia University.
H. S. H. W. S. R.