This book is essential reading for any physicist, chemist, science student, or indeed anyone interested in the physical sciences while they are on their travels. There are other travel guides which cover science as a whole, and travel guides which specifically cover physics and chemistry – I contributed to a travel guide for chemists a few years ago – but none as far as I am aware that covers the history of the atom, a topic which will have a wide appeal across all the sciences. Traveling with the Atom enables the reader to explore historical landmarks, mostly in Europe but also elsewhere, which have an association with one of the most important ideas in the history of humankind: the concept of the atom. It covers sites as wide-ranging as homesteads, graveyards, laboratories, apartments, abbeys, and castles, which are found in rural areas, working-class conurbations, and some of the most romantic cities in Europe. They include Lismore Castle in Ireland, Bowood House in England, Westminster Abbey in London, Edinburgh New Town, the Musée des Arts et Metiers in Paris, and the Dmitry Mendeleev Memorial Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, among many others. Outside Europe, the guide covers Priestley House in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, USA, the Rutherford Museum in Montreal, Canada, and Rutherford's Den in Christchurch, New Zealand. The sites are all ranked in importance, so that the visitor can decide whether a particular site is worth extending their visit for a day or making a detour to see it.
But Traveling with the Atom is more than a mere travel guide, it uses these historic sites to inform the reader about one of the most important developments in modern science, how scientists came to understand what the atom was and the role it plays in the cosmos: the story of brilliant insights and great blunders, of carefully designed experiments and serendipitous accidents. All of which are clearly explained in this book. You might wish to plan a vacation based on the sites listed here, as Glen and Kitty Rodgers have done for many years, or you may simply take this book on every vacation in the hope of finding a site associated with the atom while you are travelling. Either way, you will be well informed and will gain the pleasure having a deeper appreciation of a locality.
I first met Glen and Kitty when they visited the Science Museum in London, where I was in charge of the chemistry collections in 1998. I immediately realised that Glen was an excellent teacher, with massive enthusiasm and knowledge of the history of the atom. Subsequently, in 2006 we met up again to visit Corpus Christi Church in London's Covent Garden where Robert Boyle had his laboratory, helped by his German assistant Gottfried Hanckwitz (aka Ambrose Godfrey). We then had a nice meal in Rule's – London's oldest restaurant – across the road. I think any book written by Glen is worth reading, especially one about the history of the atom. Hence, I am very happy to write this foreword and to warmly commend this book to any reader with even the slightest interest in that crucial building block of matter, the atom.
Peter J. T. Morris,
Former Principal Curator (Science), Science Museum, London.