The Mysterious Universe

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For other uses, see Mysterious universe.
The Mysterious Universe
Author Sir James Jeans
Published 1930 (Cambridge University Press)
Pages 163
LC Class Q171 .J37

The Mysterious Universe is a popular science book by the British astrophysicist Sir James Jeans, first published in 1930 by the Cambridge University Press. In the United States, it was published by Macmillan.

The book is an expanded version of the Rede Lecture delivered at the University of Cambridge in 1930.[1] It begins with a full-page citation of the famous passage in Plato's Republic, Book VII, laying out the allegory of the cave. The book made frequent reference to the quantum theory of radiation, begun by Max Planck in 1900, to Einstein's general relativity, and to the new theories of quantum mechanics of Heisenberg and Schrödinger, of whose philosophical perplexities the author seemed well aware.

The book was denounced by the Cambridge philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, because "Jeans has written a book called The Mysterious Universe and I loathe it and call it misleading. Take the title...I might say that the title The Mysterious Universe includes a kind of idol worship, the idol being Science and the Scientist."[2]

A second edition appeared in 1931. The book was reprinted 15 times between 1930 and 1938 and in September 2007 (ISBN 978-0548451168).


  • Foreword
  • The Dying moon
  • The New World of Modern Physics
  • Matter and Radiation
  • Relativity and the Ether
  • Into the Deep Waters
  • Index

There are two pages of photographic plates:

The US edition has woodcut illustrations by the painter Walter Tandy Murch.


  1. ^ Sir James Jeans 1938 (reprint of 1931 edition of 1930 book): The Mysterious Universe, vii.
  2. ^ Monk, Ray. Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. Jonathan Cape Ltd; London. 1990.

External links[edit]

  • Weinberg, Steven (3 April 2015). "Steven Weinberg: the 13 best science books for the general reader". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  • Stetson, Harlan T. (16 January 1931). "Reviewed Work: The Mysterious Universe by James Jeans". Science 73 (1881): 71. JSTOR 1656043. 
  • Mozley, J. K. (May 1931). "Reviewed Work: The Mysterious Universe by James Jeans". The Mathematical Gazette 15 (213): 395–397. doi:10.2307/3605815. JSTOR 3605815. 
  • Brown, G. B. (April 1931). "Reviewed Work: The Mysterious Universe by James Jeans". Philosophy 6 (22): 243–245. JSTOR 3746658. 
  • G., H. V. (December 1931). "Reviewed Works: The Mysterious Universe by James Jeans; The Stars in Their Courses by James Jeans". Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 20 (80): 669–671. JSTOR 30094841. 
  • "Reviewed Work: The Mysterious Universe by James Jeans". Advocate of Peace through Justice 93 (3): 178. August 1931. JSTOR 20681600. 
  • D., A. (September 1931). "Reviewed Work: The Mysterious Universe by J. Jeans". Geography 16 (3): 238. JSTOR 40561953.