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The Ascent of John Tyndall Reviews

The Ascent of John Tyndall by Roland Jackson (Visiting Fellow, The Royal Institution)

The Ascent of John Tyndall

Victorian Scientist, Mountaineer, and Public Intellectual

Roland Jackson (Visiting Fellow, The Royal Institution)

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1 review

Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 5 Apr 2018
ISBN: 9780198788959

John Tyndall was a leading scientific figure in Victorian Britain, who established the physical basis of the greenhouse effect, and why the sky is blue. This rich biography describes the colourful life and achievements of this brilliant communicator, physicist, and mountaineer, who ascended from humble beginnings to the heart of Victorian society.

2 stars out of 5
21 Mar 2019

"Those contemporaries who attacked him for materialism short-changed [Tyndall], and so, ultimately, does this biography"

[I]mmensely long and devotedly successful at unearthing the facts of Tyndall’s life from the hundred boxes of his private papers, but tone-deaf when it comes to interpreting them, contextualising them or putting them to best effect... As Jackson acknowledges, later physicists neglected Tyndall on account of the lack of mathematical theory in his work and as a consequence of the turn away from classical physics to relativity and quantum theory. In fact physics for Tyndall was only part of a characteristically Victorian attempt at a total philosophy of life, and his lasting significance is as one of the 19th century’s greatest and most imaginative interpreters of the natural world. Those contemporaries who attacked him for materialism short-changed him, and so, ultimately, does this biography, for few scientists have been so insistent that without imagination and inspiration inductivism alone is not enough.

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