Scientific bibles

In science, scientific bibles refers to a scientific publication that is considered akin to being a sacred holy book, metaphorically speaking, in a given field of science; a book that other scientists carry around with them for guidance, like common religious people carry around a "bible". Gibbs and Pauling are unique for being known to have authored two scientific bibles.

Euclid’s Elements has long been considered the “bible of mathematics” (Ѻ) and treated as a sort of “holy book” by many, e.g. when Einstein, at age 12, was given a text on Euclidean geometry, he came to thereafter to call it “holy geometry book”.

In physics, Isaac Newton’s Principia (1687) is considered a bible.

Some colloquially consider 5-volume The Feynman Lectures (1964), by Richard Feynman, the “bible of physics” (Ѻ); others (Ѻ) consider the multi-volume Course of Theoretical Physics (Ѻ) by Lev Landau and his student Evgeny Lifśhitz to be the “bible of physics”.

In the 1930s, Paul Dirac’s The Principles of Quantum Mechanics (1930), was considered a “bible” of sorts by Einstein, in respect to the way he used to walk around saying “where’s my Dirac?”

Willard Gibbs' 1902 Elementary Principles in Statistical Mechanics, which is a mix of thermodynamics applied to William Hamilton's equations of motion, has been called the "bible of statistical physics", and has been considered as such by many of the greatest physicists.

“When I entered Niels Bohr’s institute in Copenhagen in 1924, the first thing Bohr demanded was that I should read the book of Gibbs on thermodynamics. And he added that Gibbs had been the only physicist who really understood statistical thermodynamics.”
Werner Heisenberg (1973), retrospect comment [1]


In chemistry, Linus Pauling’s The Nature of the Chemical Bond (1938) for many decades was known as the “bible of chemistry”. (Ѻ)

“Pauling’s On the Nature of the Chemical Bond is chemistry's most influential book of this century and its effective bible.”
— James Watson (2001), A Passion for DNA, Genes, Genomes, and Society

Pauling’s General Chemistry (1941) is also considered a “bible” (Ѻ) of sorts in respect to being the best book to encompass all of chemistry, as best as one book can.

See main: Thermodynamic bible
In thermodynamics, GibbsOn the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances (1876), aka the “Principia of thermodynamics”, and LewisThermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances are known as the two main “bibles of thermodynamics”; although, technically, to note, the latter is more akin an applied Cliff Notes version of the former.

“[Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances] also a thermodynamic bible for many of Lewis’ students and for some of us.”
— Author (1962), “Article”, Journal of the American Chemical Society [3]

Lewis' Thermodynamics soon became the ‘bible’ in the field for chemistry students.”
— Elizabeth Devine (1983), Thinkers in the Twentieth Century [2]

Lewis’ book in fact is the most-cited thermodynamics textbook, by other thermodynamics textbooks, of all-time.

In neurosurgery, the multi-volume Neurological Surgery by Julian Youmans (1924-) (Ѻ), first published in 1972, was considered, in the 1990s, e.g. by University of Michigan neurosurgeons, to be the “bible of neurosurgery”; in 2019, Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery, 7th Edition was still being promoted (Ѻ) as the "Bible of neurological surgery" as a selling point.

The following are related quotes:

“On the shelves there was also to be found, naturally, Ostwald’s Energetics, that sort of thermodynamic bible in which god is replaced by a lay entity called energy.”
Ernesto Sabato (1981), On Heroes and Tombs (pg. 256)

See also
Atheist’s Bible
Gunter Grass

1. Heisenberg, Werner. (1973). “Tradition in Science”, Smithsonian Institution, Lecture, Apr, 24.
2. Devine, Elizabeth. (1983). Thinkers in the Twentieth Century (quote: ‘it soon became the “bible” in the field for chemistry students’, pg. 333). MacMillan.
3. Author. (1962). “article”, Journal of the American Chemical Society (quote: ‘it was also a thermodynamic bible for many of Lewis’ students and for some of us’, pg. 3792), Vol. 84.

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