Reviews of Fritz Zwicky's books

Below we give extracts from some reviews of two books written by Fritz Zwicky and one book of which he was both co-editor and a contributor.

1. Morphological Astronomy (1957), by F Zwicky.
1.1. Review by: Helen Sawyer Hogg.
Science, New Series 127 (3294) (1958), 343-344.

This book, by a well-known astronomer of Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories, is an unusual mixture of factual information on one of the most important of astronomical subjects - galaxies - and a development of the author's ideas on the morphological method. These latter he bases on Faraday's concept "that ultimately all things are interrelated in a most surprising variety of ways." In his morphological approach to science, the author takes a strong stand against the present trend of research to learn more and more about less and less. "The morphological method always attempts to attain the most general perspective." The main emphasis in the book is definitely on galaxies a field in which the author uses his own researches to illustrate the morphological approach. ... Certainly anyone interested in galaxies should familiarize himself with the material in this book. In so doing he will doubtless become interested in pursuing his own lines of reasoning in the light of the morphological approach outlined by Zwicky.

1.2. Review by: W W Morgan.
Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 71 (421) (1959), 352.

This book can be considered an expansion of the author's Halley Lecture of 1948. The introductory chapter is concerned with the general principles of morphological research as developed earlier by the author. The following two sections deal with clusters of galaxies and their large-scale distribution. Later chapters discuss general kinematic and dynamic characteristics, and applications of the morphological method to galaxies and cosmology. There are illustrations from photographs made with the 200-inch Hale telescope. There is a strongly individual colour to the contents of the book, and it contains many statements and some developments with which various astronomers will disagree ; however, the importance of such sections for astronomical catharsis should not be lost sight of - in addition to the research value of other parts. There is a very real need at the present time for the widest possible variety of approaches toward problems of the structure and evolution of galaxies - both singly and in clusters; and it is of prime importance to recognize the necessity of research in unusual directions - and from unusual points of view. The present volume is to be welcomed as an addition to basic astronomical literature.

2. New Methods of Thought and Procedure, (1967) by F Zwicky and A G Wilson (eds.).
2.1. Review by: William F Whitmore.
Operations Research 17 (3) (1969), 554-556.

This volume is the written record of a symposium on methodology held in Pasadena, May 22-24, 1967. It consists of six sections, each dealing with a technique of analysing problems; within each section there is an introductory paper on the characteristics of the particular method-followed by one or two illustrative and technical examples of the application. The first methodology is operations research, the other five are reasonably familiar to most readers of this journal. The stimulus for this meeting evidently came from Zwicky, who has had a distinguished career in astrophysics, jet propulsion, and other technical and scientific areas, including an outstanding teaching career at California Institute of Technology. The methodology of morphological research (the sixth technique discussed at the conference) is peculiarly his own and one evidently capable of surprising results in the hands of its creator. ... Section VI is devoted to morphological research and, again, this subject is described by its originator, F Zwicky. In simple terms, morphological research is a method of ensuring "unbias" (a word coined by Zwicky for the purpose) by the systematic listing of all conceivable alternatives in a given complex situation. If one is dealing with propulsion systems, one should, for example, discuss jets whose moving media are gases, liquids, and solids. This leads to discussion of terrajets which might work in solid earth. Zwicky states that such an analysis led him, in the early 40's, to consider some 572 possible forms of devices based on the broad principle of jet propulsion. ... The third paper in this section, again by Zwicky, advocates the simultaneous teaching of foreign languages. Despairing of a universal language (as have many others) he feels that the experience of studying several languages at once will be much more efficient and will bring out similarities that are lost in the usual painful process of learning just one language at a time.

2.2. Review by: David W Miller.
Management Science 14 (8), Application Series (1968), B539.

I found the morphological approach discussed in the last three papers most interesting. ... Professor Zwicky gives enough examples to show that, at least in his hands, morphological analysis is a powerful tool. I am sufficiently convinced to undertake some further reading in the subject and you may be too.

2.3. Review by: Tony Flowerdew.
OR 19 (4) (1968), 482-484.

This book comprises contributions to a symposium on methodologies, divided into six parts - Operational Research, Systems Engineering, Dynamic Programming, Information Theory, Game Theory and Morphological Research. The contributors are Bellman, Ernst, Flagle, Morgenstern, Thornton Page, Joseph Shea, Shubik; Gillette, Lucky and Pierce from Bell Telephone; Kalaba and Shapley from RAND; and the editors who are the morphologists and hail respectively from Caltech and Douglas Aircraft. What a cast! ... And what is one to make of morphology? In places this looks like the high-level charlatanry envisaged by Bellman. ("Our mental world image must be set straight and enriched, so that we may clearly visualize the true inter-relations among all things, material and spiritual".) Morphology is clearly in the nexialist tradition of the S.F. writer Van Vogt; it follows operational research, cybernetics, general systems theory as the latest panacea and indeed the Morphological Box (sic) is horribly reminiscent of Joanna Southcott (or Pandora).But it is not to be dismissed just like that. Zwicky has been involved in many important scientific discoveries over a long period, even if he says it himself, and he convincingly illustrates the application of his principles to missile launching and astronomy-and much less convincingly to language teaching. There are important ideas underlying the purple passages and the flummery: ideas about the methodology of science, technology and design, which if they do not deserve a grand new name, at least are worth reading and considering.

3. Discovery, Invention, Research, through the Morphological Approach (1969), by Fritz Zwicky.
3.1. Review by: Thornton Page.
Science, New Series 163 (3873) (1969), 1317-1318.

An astrophysicist at Caltech and the Mount Wilson Observatory, Fritz Zwicky is undoubtedly an active and original thinker; he has made important contributions to several fields (the mass of a cluster of galaxies, frequency of supernova explosions, compact galaxies, and intergalactic material). At an age when most men retire, Zwicky has recently been very active in formulating his philosophy based on morphological thinking - consideration of all possible solutions to a problem, or routes to a given goal, or goals themselves. ... This emphasis on totality produces some surprises characteristic of Zwicky's research contributions, and examples in this book range from making out income-tax returns to studying languages and computing energy transformations in astrophysics. ...In the course of applying morphological reasoning to the design and use of astronomical telescopes, Zwicky covers some interesting history of the Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories and of more recent space probes. In much of this he is critical of tactical errors, nd makes strong recommendations to future planners. In similar vein, he criticises automobile design, postage stamps, extrasensory perception, and the teaching of mathematics. Zwicky recounts several of his achievements: restoring scientific books and journals to libraries damaged in World War II, review of German wartime science, and developments in jet propulsion.

3.2. Review by: David W Miller.
Management Science 16 (4), Application Series (1969), B295-B296.

Professor Zwicky is a famous physicist who, among other things, has an important kind of star named after him. He originated, and elsewhere briefly exposited, a method of analysis which he calls morphological analysis. This is supposed to be a general analytical procedure applicable to arbitrary problems of any level of complexity. There is an association devoted to morphological analysis and, for example, Professor Kaufmann illustrates it in his introductory book on operations research. Such facts as these led me to have high hopes for the book under review. I was anxious to learn some details of the application of morphological analysis. Unfortunately, this book does very little to assuage my curiosity. I can conclude that Professor Zwicky is a humanitarian and a humanist and that his heart is in the right place but I can conclude very little about morphological analysis. One of the difficulties is that the major expository device used by the author is the statement of a series of "examples" of morphological analysis. Taking a charitable point of view, I am prepared to assume that it would have been possible to present these examples so that the reader could deduce something about morphological analysis from them - although I am not at all sure that this is true. But in any case, as presented here, these examples tell me how to accomplish a morphological analysis to a considerably lesser degree than, say, Picasso's paintings tell me how to be a painter. ... When an author claims to be offering an analytical procedure which is applicable to any kind of problem whatsoever it is clear that one cannot expect any very detailed prescriptions and procedures. Still, if the book does not succeed in conveying a single modification to the ordinary common-sense way of approaching a problem then one is entitled to doubt the usefulness of the author's method. I found this to be the case with Professor Zwicky's book so I conclude that morphological analysis - at least as presented here - will be of little use to management scientists.

Last Updated November 2018