This is the first biography in twenty years of James Clerk Maxwell, one of the greatest scientists of our time and yet a man relatively unknown to the wider public. Approaching science with a freshness unbound by convention or previous expectations, he produced some of the most original scientific thinking of the nineteenth century — and his discoveries went on to shape the twentieth century.
When young children first begin to ask 'why?' they embark on a journey with no final destination. The need to make sense of the world as a whole is an ultimate curiosity that lies at the root of all human religions. It has, in many cultures, shaped and motivated a more down to earth scientific interest in the physical world, which could therefore be described as penultimate curiosity. These two manifestations of curiosity have a history of connection that goes back deep into the human past. Tracing that history all the way from cave painting to quantum physics, this book (a collaboration between a painter and a physical scientist that uses illustrations throughout the narrative) sets out to explain the nature of the long entanglement between religion and science: the ultimate and the penultimate curiosity.
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) had a relatively brief, but remarkable life, lived in his beloved rural home of Glenlair, and variously in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, London and Cambridge. His scholarship also ranged wide - covering all the major aspects of Victorian natural philosophy. He was one of the most important mathematical physicists of all time, coming only after Newton and Einstein. In scientific terms his immortality is enshrined in electromagnetism and Maxwell's equations, but as this book shows, there was much more to Maxwell than electromagnetism, both in terms of his science and his wider life. Maxwell's life and contributions to science are so rich that they demand the expertise of a range of academics - physicists, mathematicians, and historians of science and literature - to do him justice. The various chapters will enable Maxwell to be seen from a range of perspectives. Chapters 1 to 4 deal with wider aspects of his life in time and place, at Aberdeen, King's College London and the Cavendish Laboratory. Chapters 5 to 12 go on to look in more detail at his wide ranging contributions to science: optics and colour, the dynamics of the rings of Saturn, kinetic theory, thermodynamics, electricity, magnetism and electromagnetism with the concluding chapters on Maxwell's poetry and Christian faith.
The story of two brilliant nineteenth-century scientists who discovered the electromagnetic field, laying the groundwork for the amazing technological and theoretical breakthroughs of the twentieth century Two of the boldest and most creative scientists of all time were Michael Faraday (1791-1867) and James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879). This is the story of how these two men - separated in age by forty years - discovered the existence of the electromagnetic field and devised a radically new theory which overturned the strictly mechanical view of the world that had prevailed since Newton's time. The authors, veteran science writers with special expertise in physics and engineering, have created a lively narrative that interweaves rich biographical detail from each man's life with clear explanations of their scientific accomplishments. Faraday was an autodidact, who overcame class prejudice and a lack of mathematical training to become renowned for his acute powers of experimental observation, technological skills, and prodigious scientific imagination. James Clerk Maxwell was highly regarded as one of the most brilliant mathematical physicists of the age. He made an enormous number of advances in his own right. But when he translated Faraday's ideas into mathematical language, thus creating field theory, this unified framework of electricity, magnetism and light became the basis for much of later, 20th-century physics. Faraday's and Maxwell's collaborative efforts gave rise to many of the technological innovations we take for granted today - from electric power generation to television, and much more. Told with panache, warmth, and clarity, this captivating story of their greatest work - in which each played an equal part - and their inspiring lives will bring new appreciation to these giants of science.
Mathematics by photographer and broadcaster Foreword by Dr Adam Hart-Davis
Author: photographer and broadcaster Foreword by Dr Adam Hart-Davis
Publisher: OUP Oxford
During the Victorian era, industrial and economic growth led to a phenomenal rise in productivity and invention. That spirit of creativity and ingenuity was reflected in the massive expansion in scope and complexity of many scientific disciplines during this time, with subjects evolving rapidly and the creation of many new disciplines. The subject of mathematics was no exception and many of the advances made by mathematicians during the Victorian period are still familiar today; matrices, vectors, Boolean algebra, histograms, and standard deviation were just some of the innovations pioneered by these mathematicians. This book constitutes perhaps the first general survey of the mathematics of the Victorian period. It assembles in a single source research on the history of Victorian mathematics that would otherwise be out of the reach of the general reader. It charts the growth and institutional development of mathematics as a profession through the course of the 19th century in England, Scotland, Ireland, and across the British Empire. It then focuses on developments in specific mathematical areas, with chapters ranging from developments in pure mathematical topics (such as geometry, algebra, and logic) to Victorian work in the applied side of the subject (including statistics, calculating machines, and astronomy). Along the way, we encounter a host of mathematical scholars, some very well known (such as Charles Babbage, James Clerk Maxwell, Florence Nightingale, and Lewis Carroll), others largely forgotten, but who all contributed to the development of Victorian mathematics.
Five historical devices -- bow and arrow, waterwheel, trebuchet, pendulum clock anchor escapement, and steam engine governor -- capture the imagination of physicist Mark Denny. Here he shares not only the history of these influential machines, but how they actually work. Using accessible prose, along with diagrams, equations, and drawings, Denny explains the physics behind each machine, how it was used, how it evolved, and why it is significant in today's world.
A history of the twentieth century which covers all the ideas, people, great events, literary and artistic movements, scientific discoveries which have shaped the twentieth century. Terrible Beauty presents a unique narrative of the twentieth century. Unlike more conventional histories, where the focus is on political events and personalities, on wars, treaties and elections, this book concentrates on the ideas that made the century so rich, rewarding and provocative. Beginning with four seminal ideas which were introduced in 1900 - the unconscious, the gene, the quantum and Picasso's first paintings in Paris - the book brings together the main areas of thought and juxtaposes the most original and influential ideas of our time in an immensely readable narrative. From the creation of plastic to Norman Mailer, from the discovery of the 'Big Bang' to the Counterculture, from Relativity to Susan Sontag, from Proust to Salman Rushdie, and Henri Bergson to Saul Bellow, the book's range is encyclopedic. We meet in these pages the other twentieth century, the writers, the artists, the scientists and philosophers who were not cowed by the political and military disasters raging around them, and produced some of the most amazing and rewarding ideas by which we live. Terrible Beauty, endlessly stimulating and provocative, affirms that there was much more to the twentieth century than war and genocide.
This biography of Oliver Heaviside profiles the life of an underappreciated genius and describes his many contributions to electrical science, which proved to be essential to the future of mass communications. Oliver Heaviside (1850 -1925) may not be a household name but he was one of the great pioneers of electrical science: his work led to huge advances in communications and became the bedrock of the subject of electrical engineering as it is taught and practiced today. His ideas and original accomplishments are now so much a part of everyday electrical science that they are simply taken for granted; almost nobody wonders how they came about and Heaviside's name has been lost from view. This book tells the complete story of this extraordinary though often unappreciated scientist. The author interweaves details of Heaviside's life and personality with clear explanations of his many important contributions to the field of electrical engineering. He describes a man with an irreverent sense of fun who cared nothing for social or mathematical conventions and lived a fiercely independent life. His achievements include creating the mathematical tools that were to prove essential to the proper understanding and use of electricity, finding a way to rid telephone lines of the distortion that had stifled progress, and showing that electrical power doesn't flow in a wire but in the space alongside it. At first his ideas were thought to be weird, even outrageous, and he had to battle long and hard to get them accepted. Yet by the end of his life he was awarded the first Faraday Medal. This engrossing story will restore long-overdue recognition to a scientist whose achievements in many ways were as crucial to our modern age as those of Edison's and Tesla's.