In the spirit of St. John’s, below I list one hundred Great Books about physics applied to medicine and biology. Read all these and you will have obtained a liberal education in biological and medical physics. One book you won’t find on this list is

*Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology*. I’m going to assume you’ve already read

*IPMB*and my goal is to suggest books to supplement it.

Where to begin? I’ll assume you have taken a year of physics and a year of calculus. Once you have these prerequisites, start reading.

*Powers of Ten*. First an overview that’s easy and fun. It provides an intuitive feel for the relative sizes of things.*The Machinery of Life*. Although I’m assuming you’ve studied some physics and math, I’m not assuming you have much background in biology. This book provides a gentle introduction to biochemistry. Plus, it has those wonderful drawings by David Goodsell.*The Art of Insight in Science and Engineering*. Remember: We seek insight, not just facts.*Physical Models of Living Systems*.*IPMB*is about modeling in medicine and biology. Philip Nelson’s little book gets us started building models.*The Feynman Lectures on Physics*. I know, I know...you’ve already studied introductory physics, but*The Feynman Lectures*are special. You don’t want to miss them, and they contain some biology too.*Air and Water*. Now we get to our main topic: physics applied to biology. Mark Denny’s book covers many topics found in the first half of*IPMB*.*Physics with Illustrative Examples from Medicine and Biology*. This classic three-volume set covers much of the same ground as*IPMB*.*The Double Helix*. To further strengthen your background in biology, read James Watson’s first-person account of how he and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA. It’s a required text for any student of science, and is an easy read.*The Eighth Day of Creation: The Makers of the Revolution in Biology*. After warming up with*The Double Helix*, it’s time to dig deeper into the history and ideas of modern biology. Physicists play a large role in this book, and it’s wonderfully written.*Biomechanics of Human Motion*. Chapter 1 in*IPMB*covers statics applied to the bones and muscles of the body. It’s our first book that focuses in detail on a specific topic.*Structures, or Why Things Don’t Fall Down*. A delightful book about mechanics, including some biomechanical examples. It’s one of the most enjoyable books on this list. Don’t miss the sequel,*The New Science of Strong Materials*.*Biomechanics: Mechanical Properties of Living Tissue*. We need a book about biomechanics that treats tissue as a continuous medium. YC Fung’s textbook fills that niche.*A Treatise on the Mathematical Theory of Elasticity*. This book is long and technical, and may contain more material than you really need to know. Nevertheless, it’s a great place to learn elasticity. I’m sure there are more modern books that you may prefer. Skip if you’re in a hurry.*The Physics of Scuba Diving*. An easy read about how hydrostatics impacts divers.*Life in Moving Fluids*. Fluid dynamics is one of those topics that’s critical to life, but is often skipped in introductory physics classes. This book by Steven Vogel provides an excellent introduction to the field of biological fluid dynamics.*Vital Circuits*. Another book by Vogel, which focuses on the fluid dynamics of the circulatory system.*Boundary Layer Theory*. This large tome may be too advanced for the list, but I learned a lot from it. Skip if you need to move along quickly.*Textbook of Medical Physiology*. We need to get serious about learning physiology. This classic text is by Arthur Guyton, but any good physiology textbook will do. Not much physics here. The book contains more biology than we need, but physiology is too important to skip.*e, The Story of a Number*. A gentle introduction into calculus and differential equations, and a great history of the exponential function, the topic of*IPMB*’s second chapter.*Quick Calculus*. Yes, you already studied calculus. But we are about to get more mathematical, and this book will help you brush up on math you may have forgotten. If you don’t need it, move on.*Used Math*. Finish your math review with this outline of mathematics essential for college physics.*The Essential Exponential*. It’s time to focus specifically on the exponential function and its properties, so important in biology and medicine.*A Change of Heart*. Chapter 2 of*IPMB*mentions the Framingham heart study. Read the story behind the project.*On Being the Right Size*. This is really an essay, but indulge me while I include it here among the books. J. B. S. Haldane is too fascinating of a writer to miss.*Scaling: Why is Animal Size so Important?*Knut Schmidt-Nielsen’s study of scaling, a key topic in Chapter 2 of*IPMB*.*Lady Luck*. Chapter 3 of*IPMB*requires us to know some probability, and Warren Weaver’s book is an engaging introduction.*Statistical Physics*. The first few sections of Chapter 3 in*IPMB*develop the ideas of statistical physics in a way reminiscent of Frederick Reif’s volume in the Berkeley Physics Course.*An Introduction to Thermal Physics*. For those who want a more traditional approach to thermodynamics, I recommend Daniel Schroeder’s textbook.*Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry*. Biological thermodynamics overlaps with biochemistry. Any good biochemistry book will do. They all contain more detail than you need, but a biological physicist must know some biochemistry.*The Second Law*. This delightful book by Peter Atkins will fill a hole in*IPMB*: a penetrating discussion about the second law of thermodynamics.*Div Grad Curl and All That*. Chapter 4 of*IPMB*uses vector calculus, and there is no better introduction to the topic.*Random Walks in Biology*. Howard Berg’s wonderful little book about diffusion.*The Mathematics of Diffusion*. John Crank’s intimidating giant tome about diffusion. Mathephobes shouldn’t bother with it; Mathephiles shouldn’t miss it.*Conduction of Heat in Solids*. Like the book by Crank, this ponderous textbook by Horatio Carslaw and John Jaeger presents all you ever want to know about solving the heat equation (also known as the diffusion equation).*How Animals Work*. Another delightful book by Schmidt-Nielsen that considers comparative physiology, and topics in Chapter 5 of*IPMB*such as countercurrent heat exchange.*The Nuts and Bolts of Life*. A colorful book about the first dialysis machine.*The Biomedical Engineering Handbook*. Don’t read this encyclopedia-like multi-volume handbook in one sitting. Yet it provides dozens of examples of how physics is applied to medicine. Ask your library to buy this set and the next one.*Encyclopedia of Medical Devices and Instrumentation*. The title should be*Case Studies: How Physics is Applied to Medicine*.*Plant Physics*.*IPMB*doesn’t say much about plants, but physics impacts botany as well as zoology.*Nerve, Muscle, and Synapse*. Bernard Katz’s excellent, if somewhat dated, introduction to all the electrophysiology you need for Chapter 6 of*IPMB*.*The Conduction of the Nervous Impulse*. Read about the Hodgkin-Huxley model from the pen of Alan Hodgkin himself.*From Neuron to Brain*. A modern introduction to neuroscience.*Electricity and Magnetism*. This book by Ed Purcell is part of the Berkeley Physics Course. The first of three physics books about electricity and magnetism.*Introduction to Electrodyamics*. David Griffiths’s text competes with Purcell’s for my favorite electricity and magnetism book.*Classical Electrodynamics*. John David Jackson’s famous graduate-level physics text may be more electricity and magnetism than you want, but how could I leave it off the list?*Galvani’s Spark*. A history of neurophysiology.*Shattered Nerves*. A fascinating look at using electrical stimulation to compensate for neural injury. A history of neural prostheses.*Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach*. The first, and probably easiest, of three bioelectricity textbooks.*Bioelectromagnetism*. Jaakko Malmivuo and Robert Plonsey’s big book about bioelectricity.*Bioelectricity and Biomagnetism*. Another big tome. Ramesh Gulrajani’s alternative to Malmivuo and Plonsey.*The Art of Electronics*. In order to understand voltage clamping and other electrophysiological methods, you need to know some electronics. This book is my favorite introduction to the topic.*Mathematical Handbook of Formulas and Tables*. Chapter 6 contains lots of mathematics, and the next three books are references you may want. This Schaum’s Outline contains most of the math you’ll ever need. It’s cheap, light, and easy to use. Keep it handy.*Handbook of Mathematical Functions with Formulas, Graphs and Mathematical Tables*. No one would sit down and read this handbook straight through, but “Abramowitz and Stegun” is invaluable as a reference.- Table of Integrals, Series, and Products. “Gradshteyn and Ryzhik” is the best integral table ever. Let the library buy it, but have them keep it in the reference section so you can find it quickly.
*Numerical Recipes*. If you want to solve the equations of the Hodgkin-Huxley model, you need to program a computer. This book is great for finding the needed numerical methods.*Numerical Methods that Work*. Forman Acton’s book is more chatty than*Numerical Recipes*, but full of insight.*Machines in our Hearts*. Chapter 7 of*IPMB*examines the heart. Read this history of pacemakers and defibrillators to put it all in perspective.*Cardiac Electrophysiology: From Cell to Bedside*. This multi-author, multi-edition work contains everything you always wanted to know about the electrical properties of the heart, but were afraid to ask.*Cardiac Bioelectric Therapy*. Another multi-author collection, with several excellent chapters about the bidomain model.*When Time Breaks Down*. Art Winfree’s unique analysis of the electrical properties of the heart.*Electric Fields of the Brain*. Paul Nunez’s book about the electroencephalogram from the perspective of a physicist.*Iron, Nature’s Universal Element*. Why people need iron and animals make magnets.*The Spark of Life*. An accessible introduction to electrophysiology and ion channel diseases.*Ion Channels of Excitable Membranes*. The definitive textbook about ion channels, by Bertil Hille.*Voodoo Science*. Some of the topics in Section 9.10 of*IPMB*about possible effects of weak electric and magnetic fields make me yearn for this hard-hitting book by Bob Park.*Dynamics: The Geometry of Behavior*. Chapter 10 of*IPMB*covers nonlinear dynamics. This beautiful book introduces dynamics using pictures.*From Clocks to Chaos*. Leon Glass and Michael Mackey introduce the idea of a dynamical disease.*Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos*. Steven Strogatz’s classic*;*my favorite book about nonlinear dynamics.*Mathematical Physiology*. An award-winning textbook about applying math to biology.*Mathematical Biology*. Another big fine textbook for the mathematically inclined.*The Geometry of Biological Time*. A quirky book by Art Winfree, more wide-ranging than*When Time Breaks Down*.*Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences*. Many of the ideas about least squares fitting discussed in Chapter 11 of*IPMB*are related to analyzing noisy data.*The Fourier Transform and its Applications*. The Fourier transform is the most important concept in Chapter 11. Ronald Bracewell’s book is a great place to learn about it.*Introduction to Membrane Noise*. Louis DeFelice’s book explains how to deal with noise.*Naked to the Bone*. A historical survey of medical imaging.*Medical Imaging Physics*. A book by William Hendee and E Russell Ritenour, at a level similar to*IPMB*but dedicated entirely to imaging. Also see its partner, Hendee's*Radiation Therapy Physics*.*Foundations of Medical Imaging*. A big, technical book about imaging.*Theoretical Acoustics*. Not much biology here, but a definitive survey of acoustics to back up Chapter 13 of*IPMB*.*Physics of the Body.*This book discusses many topics, including hearing.*Musicophilia*. An extraordinary book by Oliver Sacks about the neuroscience of hearing.*Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei, and Particles*. My choice for a modern physics textbook, with much information about the interaction of light with matter.*The First Steps in Seeing*. Robert Rodieck’s incredible book about the physics of vision.*The Optics of Life*. This masterpiece by Sonke Johnsen walks you through optics, examining all the biological applications. A great supplement to Chapter 14 of*IPMB*.*From Photon to Neuron*. A study of light, imaging, and vision.*Introduction to Physics in Modern Medicine*. Suzanne Amador Kane’s nice introduction to physics applied to medicine, covering many topics in the last half of*IPMB*.*Introduction to Radiological Physics and Radiation Dosimetry*. Frank Herbert Attix wrote the definitive textbook about how x-rays interact with tissue, a topic covered in Chapter 15 of*IPMB*.*Radiobiology for the Radiologist*. The go-to reference for how cells and tissues respond to radiation.*Molecular Biology of the Cell*. The classic textbook of cell biology.*Radiation Oncology: A Physicists Eye View*. Explains how to treat cancer using radiation.*The Physics of Radiation Therapy*. Faiz Khan’s in-depth study of radiation therapy.*The Atomic Nucleus*. An classic about nuclear physics, providing background for Chapter 17 of*IPMB*. You could replace it with one of many modern nuclear physics textbooks.*The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks*. A fascinating study of how a women treated for cancer using radioactivity ended up providing science with an immortal cell line.*Strange Glow*. How radiation impacts society.*The Radium Girls*. This book is about women poisoned by radium-containing paint (lip, dip, paint). It reminds us why we study medical physics.*Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Physical Properties and Sequence Design*. All you need to know about MRI.*Principles of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Microscopy*. Paul Callaghan’s view of magnetic resonance imaging.*Echo Planar Imaging*. Advanced MRI techniques.*Biological Physics*.*IPMB*is not strong in covering physics applied to cellular and molecular biology. Here are three great books to fill that gap.*Cell Biology by the Numbers*. I love the quantitative approach to biology.*Physical Biology of the Cell*. How physicists view biology.

I didn’t end up going to St. John’s College and studying the Great Books. Instead, I attended a more traditional school, the University of Kansas. I loved KU, and I have no regrets. But sometimes I wonder...