l. F.W. Aston, “The Mass-Spectra of Chemical Elements,” Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, 39, 611-625 (1920). In the course of a systematic program to measure the masses of atoms, Aston found that four hydrogen nuclei (protons) are heavier than a helium nucleus (an alpha particle) and two positive electrons [see Eq. (1)]. This fundamental discovery is the experimental basis of our understanding of how stars like the sun shine. The original paper is rarely cited, perhaps because the text is mainly devoted to a description of Aston’s new apparatus and to a discussion of the many different masses that he measured. The hydrogen-helium mass difference is only briefly discussed.

2. R.D.E. Atkinson and F.G. Houtermans, “Zur Frage der Aufbaumöglichkeit der Elements in Sternen,” Z. Physik 54, 656 (1929). An early attempt to calculate the rate of nuclear reactions in stars using the Gamow factor.

3. J.N. Bahcall, “Solar Neutrinos I. Theoretical,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 12, 300 (1964).

4. H.A. Bethe, “Energy production in Stars,” Phys. Rev. 55, 436 (1939). If you are a physicist and only have time to read one paper in the subject, this is the paper to read.

5. J.D. Burchfield, Lord Kelvin and The Age of the Earth, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 1990. This concise book provides a clear and insightful account of Kelvin’s views on the age of the earth and the age of the sun, and on many other topics including natural selection and geological evolution. The author tells an exciting story with historical accuracy.

6. C.L. Cowan Jr., F. Reines, F.B. Harrison, H.W. Kruse, and A.D. McGuire, “Detection of the Free Neutrino: a Confirmation”, Science 124, 103 (1956); F. Reines and C.L. Cowan, “Detection of the Free Neutrino”, Phys. Rev. 92, 830 (1953). These papers describe the first experimental detection of neutrinos.

7. C. Darwin, On the Origin of the Species by Natural Selection, or, The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life (London: Murray 1859), p. 285 (Pelican Preprint of first edition, 296–297, 1968).

8. R. Davis Jr., “Solar Neutrinos. II. Experimental,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 12, 302 (1964).

9. J.N. Bahcall and R. Davis Jr., “An Account of the Development of the Solar Neutrino Problem,” in Essays in Nuclear Astrophysics, ed. C.A. Barnes, D.D. Clayton, and D. Schramm (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1982), p. 243; reprinted in J.N. Bahcall, Neutrino Astrophysics, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1989). For related material, see

10. A.S. Eddington, “The Internal Constitution of the Stars,” Observatory 43, 353 (1920). This lecture is inspiring.

11. A. Einstein, “Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper,” Annalen der Physik, 17 (105). English translation in The Principle of Relativity, translated by W. Perrett and G.B. Jeffery with notes by A. Sommerfeld, (Dover Publications: New York), 1923. The logic in this paper is breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly clear.

12. E. Fermi, “Tentativo di una teoria della emissione di raggi  ,” Ric. 4, 491 (1934). Reprinted in Enrico Fermi, Collected Papers: Note e memorie, Vol 1. p. 538 (University of Chicago Press: Chicago) (1962-1965). See also p. 559, 575. Fermi formulated the mathematical theory of neutrino emission in -decay. His first paper on the subject was rejected as “too speculative” for publication.

13. W.A. Fowler, “Experimental and theoretical nuclear astrophysics: the quest for the origin of the elements,” Rev. Mod. Phys. 56, 149 (1984).

14. G. Gamow, “Zur Quantentheorie der Atomzertrümmerung,” Zeit. fur Physik 52, 510 (1928). Derives the Gamow factor using quantum mechanics.

15. S. Hawking, “Gravitationally collapsed objects of very low mass”, Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, 152, 75 (1971). In this imaginative paper, Hawking speculated that the central region of the sun might contain a black hole and that this could be the reason why the flux of solar neutrinos was less than predicted.

16. H. von Helmholtz, Lecture “On the interaction of natural forces,” Königsberg, February 7 (1854), in Phil. Mag. 11 [series 4], 489-518 (1856).

17. J.F.W. Herschel, A Treatise on Astronomy (London 1833), p. 211.

18. W.T. Kelvin, “On the Age of the Sun’s Heat,” Macmillan’s Magazine, 288–293 (March 5, 1862).

19. J. Marchant, Alfred Russel Wallace, Letters and Reminiscences, I (London: Cassell 1916), p. 242. Letter dated 14 April, 1869.

20. W. Pauli, letter to a physicists’ gathering at Tübingen, December 4, 1930. Reprinted in Wolfgang Pauli, Collected Scientific Papers, ed. R. Kronig and V. Weisskopf, Vol. 2, p. 1313 (Interscience, New York) (1964).

21. H.N. Russell, “On the Sources of Stellar Energy,” Pub. Ast. Soc. Pacific, August (1919). If you like to read mystery stories and to figure out “Who did it” from limited clues, then you will love this paper. A year before Aston’s measurements of the mass of hydrogen and of helium and two decades before Bethe’s calculations of nuclear fusion rates, Russell used well-known observations of stars and simple physical reasoning to infer that the rate of the “unknown process” that supplies stellar energy must increase rapidly with increasing stellar temperature. Incredibly, he also correctly deduced that this dependence of energy production on temperature would lead to stars being stable over very long periods of time. These insights are presented in the text of a closely-reasoned lecture that contains no equations.

22. E. Rutherford, “The Radiation and Emanation of Radium,” Pt. II, Technics, Aug., 171, (1904) Collected Papers, I: 650.

23. C. Smith and M.N. Wise, Energy and Empire: A biographical study of Lord Kelvin, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 1989. This book is a stimulating and authoritative account of Kelvin, his science, and his life. Chapters 15-17 deal with the age of the sun, the cooling of the earth, and the age of the earth.

24. C. F. von Weizsäcker, “Über Elementumwandlungen in Innern der Sterne. II,” Physikalische Zeitschrift, 39, 633 (1938). The CNO cycle is described in the last paragraph of Section 7.