There is no doubt that on our daily lives, the great works of science have more of an effect than the works of literature. We fly because of Newton, talk on cell phones because of Einstein. But few science books, by their very nature, rise to the level of beautiful verse or are accessible enough to make them worthwhile to the general reader. However, some books do rise to that standard and here is a list of great science books that have elucidated the natural world and moved civilization and our understanding forward. They range from the complex to the popular. This is by no means a definitive list and is heavily weighted toward the late 20th century but would give the general reader a good review of both original texts and interpretive works.
Aristotle, Greece, 220 BCE. Physics.
Euclid, Greece, 300 BCE. The Elements.
Ptolemy, Egypt, 147. Almagest.
Roger Bacon, England, 1267. Opus Majius.
Nicolaus Copernicus, Poland, 1543. Die Revolutionibus.
Andreas Vesalius, Belgium, 1543. De Corporis Fabrica.
Johannes Kepler, Germany, 1609. Astronomia Nova.
Francis Bacon, England, 1620. Novum Organum.
William Harvey, England, 1628. On the Circulation of the Blood.
Galileo Galilei, Italy, 1632. Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.
Robert Hooke, England 1665. Micrographia.
Isaac Newton, England 1687. Principia Mathamatica.
Giambatistta Vico, Italy, 1725. The New Science.
Carolus Linnaeus, Sweden, 1735. Systema Naturae.
Antoine Lavoisier, France 1789. Treatise on Chemistry.
Charles Darwin, England, 1859. The Origin of Species.
Sigmund Freud, Austria, 1899. The Interpretation of Dreams.
Albert Einstein, Germany 1916. Relativity: The Special and General Theory.
Max Planck, Germany, 1915. Eight Lectures on Theoretical Physics.
Jane Jacobs, US, 1961. The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
Karl Jung, Switzerland, 1961. Man and his Symbols.
Thomas Kuhn, US, 1962. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Rachel Carson, US, 1962. Silent Spring.
George Gamelov, Ukraine, 1966. Thirty Years That Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory.
James Watson, James Crick US/England, 1968. The Double Helix.
Carl Sagan, US, 1973. The Cosmic Connection.
Richard Dawkins, England, 1976. The Selfish Gene.
Douglas Hofstadter, US, 1979. Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
Stephen Jay Gould, US, 1981. The Mismeasure of Man.
Richard Feynman, US, 1985. QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter
Oliver Sacks, England, 1985. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
Stephen Hawking, England, 1988. Brief History of Time
Jared Diamond, US, 1999. Guns, Germs and Steel.