by George Gamow Book
Mr Tompkins in Paperback   (2011-04-14)
Review of `Mr Tompkins in Paperback' (1994) by George Gamow, Canto Books (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Reviewer W. P. Palmer
This book should be on any science teacher's bookshelf: it is inexpensive and a delight to read. Firstly, however a little information about the publication.
1. This small paperback volume contains not one but two separate books. Mr Tompkins in Wonderland was originally published by Cambridge University Press in 1940. Mr Tompkins Explores the Atom was published by Cambridge University Press in 1944. The two volumes have been through different editions and reprints ever since and in 1994, Cambridge University Press marked more than half a century of Mr Tompkins by bringing out a joint paperback volume of all the Mr Tompkins stories.
2. Mr Tomkins in Wonderland explains Einstein's theory of relativity. Mr Tompkins Explores the Atom explains atomic structure and some of the ideas of quantum mechanics. He does this through the introduction of three main characters, Mr Tomkins, a clerk in a big city bank, with an interest in, but little knowledge of, science and a strong propensity to fall asleep and dream during the "Professor's" scientific lectures, the "Professor", who gives the scientific explanations, and his daughter Maude, who develops a romantic attachment to Mr Tompkins.
3. Relativity and quantum mechanics are explained very well through these stories and Roger Penrose in the introduction states that with a few minor exceptions these stories still give a useful explanation of these 'difficult to grasp' concepts.
4. Gamow wrote the first of the Mr Tompkins stories in 1938 and was unsuccessful in finding a publisher. Eventually he offered it to C. P. Snow, who then edited Discovery and who published it and subsequent Mr Tomkins stories in Discovery.
5. The original illustrations were drawn by John Hookham, but after Hookham had retired, Gamow did subsequent drawings himself following Hookham's style.
I suggest that the whole new volume would be very suitable for teachers who want a reasonably accessible explanation of relativity or quantum mechanics or for interested students in Years 9-12.
Original review in The Journal of the Science Teacher Association of the Northern Territory, Volume 14, pp.134-135.
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