Yakov Perelman

“to whet thirst for knowledge, to evoke the desire for further reading”.

Chances are that  one of the first book that actually interested you in mathematics and physics was that of the incredibly talented writer Yakov Perelman. There are numerous books by Perelman which have been published and translated in numerous languages. In India I have seen his works in Marathi, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Bengali, Kannada (thanks to Shashi for pointing this out. Still in print! check the comment by Shahsi) and Gujarati at least, (there may be many more of which I am not aware of). If you know of any other translations in Indian languages please let us know. The books also exist in a lot of other European languages.

The wikipedia page referred to above, lists the books by Perelman as below. Each one is a gem.

In this the Physics for Entertainment, has been published as a two volume series, especially in the regional languages of India. Many of the books were published under different titles, as publishers, long after Perelman was gone, continued to print the books. This led to different editions of the books, with different graphics supporting them over the years.

The following foreword by the editor of the Physics Can Be Fun that I have describes it more aptly:

Perelman’s Physics for Entertainment owes its wide popularity to the rare talent of its author who was able to single out and present in an entertaining form ordinary facts and phenomena that have a deep physical meaning.

The aim of the book is not so much to give you some fresh  knowledge, as to help you “learn what you already know”. In other words, the idea is to brush up and enliven your basic knowledge of physics, and to teach you how to apply it in various ways. To achieve this purpose, conundrums, brain-teasers, entertaining anecdotes and stories, amusing experiments, paradoxes and unexpected comparisons – all dealing with physics and based on everyday experience and science fiction are included. The author quotes extensively from Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Mark Twain and other writers, because besides providing entertainment, the fantastic experiments these writers describe may well serve as instructive illustrations at physics classes.

On the other hand, you will find very little in the way of parlor tricks or spectacular experiments. The book seeks to stimulate you thinking along scientific lines and to amass associations with a variety of things from everyday life. This English language edition is a translation from the 21st Russian edition of Physics for Entertainment, Book 1 and Book 2. Chapters from 11th to 20th are Book 2. Although the two halves of the book are essential independent and can be read in any sequence, the last ten chapters are, by and large, meant for the more advanced reader.

Perelman once noted that Physics for Entertainment has been written not to leave an inquisitive mind satisfied. On the contrary, its task is “to whet thirst for knowledge, to evoke the desire for further reading”.

I will be soon adding some more wonderful covers of the books and the art contained within those books.

I will reproduce here what one of the editors of Physics Can Be Fun wrote about Perelman in the opening pages of the book:

 In 1913 in Russian bookshops appeared a book by the outstanding educationalist Yakov Isidorovich Perelman entitled Physics for Entertainment. It stuck the fancy of the young who found in it the answers to many of the questions that interested them.

Physics for Entertainment not only had an interesting layout, it was also immensely interactive.

In the preface of the 11th edition Perelman wrote: “The main objective of Physics for Entertainment is to arouse the activity of scientific imagination, to teach the reader to think in the spirit of the science of physics and to create in his mind a wide variety of associations of physical knowledge with the widely differing facts of life, with all that he normally comes in contact with.”

Physics for Entertainment was a best seller.
Y. I. Perelman was born in 1882 in the town of Byelostok (now in Poland). In 1909 he obtained a diploma of forester from the St. Petersburg Forestery Institute. After the success of Physics for Entertainment Perelman set out to produce other books, in which he showed himself to be an imaginative popularizer of science. Especially popular were Arithmetics for Entertainment, Mechanics for Entertainment, Geometry for Entertainment, Astronomy for Entertainment, Figures for Fun, Physics Everywhere, and Tricks and Amusements. Today these books are known to every educated person in the Soviet Union.

He has also written several books on interplanetary travel (Interplanetary Journeys, On A Rocket to Stars, World Expanses,
etc.). The great scientist K. E. Tsiolkovsky thought highly of talent and the creative genius of Perelman. He wrote of him in the preface to Interplanetary Journeys: “The author has long been known by his popular, witty and quite scientific works on physics, astronomy, and mathematics, which are moreover written in a marvellous language and are very readable.”

Perelman has also authored a number of textbooks and articles in Soviet popular science magazines.

In addition to his educational, scientific and literary activities,
he has also devoted much tie to editing. So he was the editor of
the magazines Nature and People and In The Workshop of Nature.

Perelman died on March 16 1942, in Leningrad.

Many generations of readers have enjoyed Perelman’s fascinating
books, and they will undoubtedly be of interest for generations to

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29 Responses to Yakov Perelman

  1. shashi says:

    Dear Damitr,

    You missed out Kannada in the list of languages covered. you have the book cover for Perelman’s book in Kannada above just above the Telugu cover :).

    It is still in print from navakarnataka publications, Bangalore:
    (Manoranjanegagi Bhautashastra 1)

    Best wishes

    • damitr says:

      Hi Shashi,

      Thanks for the information. Will update the post asap. Are there any other Mir books ni print in Kannda still?


  2. Tech Namethan says:

    Perelman died during the Seige of Leningrad and he starved to death. A piece of history you missed.

  3. Umesh Singh says:

    MIR publishers are extremly helpful,anyone who loves science must visit this site,other sites are only after money

  4. Ramanan says:

    dear sir

    thanks for ur information. Plz let me know the contact details for procure the physics for entertainment in tamil.

  5. Ajit says:

    Loved to read Perelman during my childhood. Haven’t come across similar books. Thanks to Perelman and my dear Father I have a collection of Russian books prior glasnost which have fueled y imagination. I have kept them so my son will read them once he grows up.

  6. NIMA says:

    Dear Damitr,
    You missed out persian in the list of languages covered…

  7. Pushkar says:

    Dear Damitr,
    Mathematics can be fun-1>>>>>http://archive.org/details/MathematicsCanBeFun-1

  8. Pushkar says:

    Recreational Mathematics >>>>http://www.scribd.com/doc/40800646/Recreational-Math
    But the above book is not of Yakov Perelman

  9. Pushkar says:

    you can get some books on http://www.lib.ru/ and http://www.aldebaran.ru as i cannot read russian
    So you hav to search for the booksby yakov

  10. vivienne1406 says:

    Dear Damitr,
    Do you have a pdf version of Geometry for Entertainment? I’ve read it in Vietnamese but i can’t search for it by google.

  11. noooneh says:

    Dear Friend:

    “Physics for entertainment” and “algebra can be fun” were published in Arabic by Mir itself in the 70’s, then by many publishers from the 80’s forward. IT’s been a real inspiration for arabic students

  12. noooneh says:

    Dear Damitr:

    both “Physics for Entertainment” and “Algebra Can Be Fun” were published in Arabic by Mir itself in the 70’s, and later by many Arabic publishers. It’s been a real inspiration for many generations of Arab students

  13. Siddharth says:

    I have found following book from http://www.dli.ernet.in :-
    Manoranjak Bhautiki by Yakov Perelman (Hindi translation of “Physics for Entertainment”)
    Download link is: http://filecloud.io/hqur54kv
    All credits to DLI (IISC) team

    Also, I have found 2 Bengali books:
    1) Bengali Translation of “Drawing Game” by Yakov Perelman, that is অঙ্কের খেলা – ইয়াকভ পেরেলমান
    Download link is http://sovietbooksinbengali.blogspot.in/2014/06/AnkerKhyala-YakovPerelman.html
    2) Bengali Translation of “When Daddy Was A Little Boy” by Alexander Raskin, that is বাবা যখন ছোটো – আলেক্সান্দর রাস্কিন
    Download link is http://sovietbooksinbengali.blogspot.in/2014/01/BabaJakhonChhoto-AlexanderRaskin.html
    All credits to Prosenjit Benerjee, Somnath Das Gupta & their team for preparing this excellent website http://sovietbooksinbengali.blogspot.in

  14. N P says:

    Damitr Here is Arithmetic for Entertainment

  15. bhavana says:

    good and usefull for childrec

  16. K.SOMASUNDARAM says:

    I have read some of the books written by Perelman. They are very very interesting. I would like to buy all the books written by him.

  17. SovMIR says:

    I have got a mir book known as switch gear and protective gear by v. kamnev will it be helpfull for this site?

  18. A7madkhairy says:

    Please I needed Perelman’s book “interplanetary travel”…

  19. Mona says:

    Hi.I need the “mechanics for intertainment “” of parleman and by now i didn’t find it. Please guide me. Thanks a lot.

  20. victomant says:

    Dear Damitr, can you post a link for mechanics for entertainment?

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