San Francisco Chronicle

Hail to the Chief Scientist

Originally appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines

By Richard A. Muller

W.W. Norton; 380 pages; $26.95

The late William F. Buckley famously said he’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 people in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard University. No one, to my knowledge, ever asked him to choose between the Berkeley phone book and the UC Berkeley faculty. I suspect the conservative Buckley would have held his nose and opted for the faculty – if only in hopes that a few right-wing economists might compensate for the liberal yahoos that he imagined made up the rest of the professoriat, to say nothing of the population at large.

San Francisco Chronicle

Gordon S. Wood on his peers’ work

San Francisco Chronicle

The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History

By Gordon S. Wood

The Penguin Press; 323 pages; $25.95

The past century has been thrilling for those interested in history but perhaps even more thrilling for those interested in historians. The profession in this country developed its first big fissures in 1913, when Charles Beard encouraged the Progressive School to jettison Founding Father fairy tales in favor of more disabused views of early America.