1988: A Brief History of Time: From The Big Bang to Black Holes
Published: New York
Author/Editor: Stephen W. Hawking
Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, his first popular book, was published in 1988, and went on to sell 10 million copies (and, apocryphally, to be named the most bought and unread book).
A Brief History of Time is brief, vividly explained, and contains just one equation (E=mc2, for the curious), but it is still a mind-boggling tour of physics of the late twentieth century. Hawking reviews classical physics, relativity, and quantum theory. Then, he explores the search for a unified field theory that could combine these and resolve puzzling problems. Hawking concluded it was possible such a theory could soon be developed.
We’re still looking. But as Hawking wrote “A complete, consistent, unified theory is only the first step: our goal is a complete understanding of the events around us, and of our own existence.” That is a quest we can find meaning in for years. Partly thanks to the impact of this and other well-written popular science books, hopefully even more of us will find meaning in that quest in the future.