Perusing the titles of the essays in this book makes it clear that its author is a man
with many interests and a great curiosity. David Speiser is a lover and connoisseur of
art. His view of the world is coloured by his familiarity with mathematics, that is,
with “organized imagination” (his definition, see p. 49). As a historian of physics and
mathematics, editor of works of Euler and the Bernoullis, he lives part-time in the
eighteenth century, from which he inherited an old-world politesse.
To me – besides a warm friend and colleague – David Speiser is first and
foremost a theoretical physicist who contributed decisively to our understanding of
elementary particles by discovering their fundamental symmetry and its effect on
their decay. He knows first-hand how fundamental research is carried out. He was
also for many years the professor who introduced the students at the University of
Louvain to the beauty of classical mechanics and the theory of relativity. It led him to
think deeply about the foundations of these sciences and his thoughts were valued by
the many colleagues who invited him to share his insights through talks he gave in
several of the languages he is familiar with. The present volume presents a selection
of those talks to an English-speaking public. We should be especially grateful to Mrs
Williams, who made the translations and edited the texts with great competence.
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