With a never-before published paper by Lord Henry Cavendish, as well as a biography on him, this book offers a fascinating discourse on the rise of scientific attitudes and ways of knowing. A pioneering British physicist in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Cavendish was widely considered to be the first full-time scientist in the modern sense. Through the lens of this unique thinker and writer, this book is about the birth of modern science.
Energy is at the heart of physics and of huge importance to society and yet no book exists specifically to explain it, and in simple terms. In tracking the history of energy, this book is filled with the thrill of the chase, the mystery of smoke and mirrors, and presents a fascinating human-interest story. Moreover, following the history provides a crucial aid to understanding: this book explains the intellectual revolutions required to comprehend energy, revolutions as profound as those stemming from Relativity and Quantum Theory. Texts by Descartes, Leibniz, Bernoulli, d'Alembert, Lagrange, Hamilton, Boltzmann, Clausius, Carnot and others are made accessible, and the engines of Watt and Joule are explained. Many fascinating questions are covered, including: - Why just kinetic and potential energies - is one more fundamental than the other? - What are heat, temperature and action? - What is the Hamiltonian? - What have engines to do with physics? - Why did the steam-engine evolve only in England? - Why S=klogW works and why temperature is IT. Using only a minimum of mathematics, this book explains the emergence of the modern concept of energy, in all its forms: Hamilton's mechanics and how it shaped twentieth-century physics, and the meaning of kinetic energy, potential energy, temperature, action, and entropy. It is as much an explanation of fundamental physics as a history of the fascinating discoveries that lie behind our knowledge today.
The book about John Michell (1724-93) has two parts. The first and longest part is biographical, an account of Michell’s home setting (Nottinghamshire in England), the clerical world in which he grew up (Church of England), the university (Cambridge) where he studied and taught, and the scientific activities he made the center of his life. The second part is a complete edition of his known letters. Half of his letters have not been previously published; the other half are brought together in one place for the first time. The letters touch on all aspects of his career, and because they are in his words, they help bring the subject to life. His publications were not many, a slim book on magnets and magnetism, one paper on geology, two papers on astronomy, and a few brief papers on other topics, but they were enough to leave a mark on several sciences. He has been called a geologist, an astronomer, and a physicist, which he was, though we best remember him as a natural philosopher, as one who investigated physical nature broadly. His scientific contribution is not easy to summarize. Arguably he had the broadest competence of any British natural philosopher of the eighteenth century: equally skilled in experiment and observation, mathematical theory, and instruments, his field of inquiry was the universe. From the structure of the heavens through the structure of the Earth to the forces of the elementary particles of matter, he carried out original and far-reaching researches on the workings of nature.