- Gebundene Ausgabe: 320 Seiten
- Verlag: Prometheus Books (11. März 2014)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 1616149426
- ISBN-13: 978-1616149420
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 15,7 x 2,8 x 23,4 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 1 Kundenrezension
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Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field: How Two Men Revolutionized Physics (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 11. März 2014
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"It's just the best book of its kind I have ever read, and I just hugely enjoyed it. Couldn't put it down. [Their discovery] was a fabulous human achievement."
—Charlie Munger, Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, on CNBC's "Squawk Box"
“Compelling. …A lively account of the men and their times and a brilliant exposition of the scientific circumstances and significance of their work.”
—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“The life and science of these two giants of nineteenth-century physics is beautifully documented and narrated in this riveting book.”
—Eric D’Hoker, Distinguished Professor of Physics, UCLA; past president, Aspen Center for Physics
“Perhaps the names of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell aren’t as well known as Newton or Einstein, but they should be. The book traces their amazing collaboration.... But as equally fascinating as the tale of the discovery is that of the men behind it.... A fascinating true tale of the lives of two essential men of physics!” —AstroGuyz
“Blends science history and lively biography. …Accessible writing and a feel for character make this an interesting look at two scientists whose work defined an era and set the course for modern physics.”
“Fans of biographies, as well as anyone interested in science and technology…will enjoy reading about these ‘two modest and genial men whose combined endeavors changed the world.’”
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
Nancy Forbes is an experienced science writer with over twenty-five publications in the area of science and technology including Imitation of Life: How Biology Is Inspiring Computing. She has also served as a contributing editor for The Industrial Physicist of the American Institute of Physics, and IEEE's Computing in Science and Engineering. Currently, she works for the US Department of Defense.
Basil Mahon is the author of The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell and Oliver Heaviside: Maverick Mastermind of Electricity, among other publications. With degrees in engineering and statistics, Mahon was formerly an officer in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and until his retirement worked for the British Government Statistical Service.
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Faraday was born as of a poor second generation blacksmith from the North Country. He had the good fortune to arrive in London at a time when the city was intellectually very alive. He could bounce between low-paying jobs giving people a chance to notice and take advantage of his talent. One of the most fortunate postings was as a book binder. The work was not mentally demanding, but it put young Faraday in contact with books. He loved to read, and quickly became quite well informed. It also put him in such with the customers for the books, some of whom took note of the young man's alertness and talents. It was not too long before he became an apprentice to the famous scientist Humphry Davy, who brought him along rather quickly
Among Faraday's attributes was being meticulous, faulting himself deeply when he failed to put out work of the quality he expected of himself. He was kind and generous, and extremely apologetic when he accidentally gave offense, as he did one a couple of occasions. It was a Christian era, and although his religiosity does not appear to have expressed itself as such, it was expressed through the way he interacted with his fellow man. The authors do not report any conflicts between science and religion in Faraday's life.
Faraday lived a long life, toward the end of which he dealt with increasing lapses of memory. It did not affect his character; he remained conscientious to the end.
The second subject, James Clerk Maxwell, was born into more comfortable circumstances, in Scotland. His accent set him apart throughout his life. He had more easy access to the university, but still had to be propelled by mentors who were attracted to his talent and guided him to the very center of intellectual life of the times, Cambridge, where he truly shone.
Maxwell, per the book, had manifested great intellect at an early age. He was extremely close to his father, who guided his early education. He published his first paper, on the use of string and fixed foci to draw complex geometric figures, when he was only fourteen. He continued to work a number of areas, including his of light, vibration, and eventually electricity and magnetism. Another early paper won him a prize while at the university: he concluded, using an elaborate mathematical argument based on the physical properties he could assume for solid disks, liquid, and independently orbiting rocks, that Saturn's rings had to be formed from the latter. Later, one of his mentors introduced him to Faraday's writing, the deeply perceptive observations in which had yet to be explained mathematically.
Each of the men had shortcomings. Faraday never mastered mathematics. He was never able to find a mathematical language to as a vehicle to express his marvelous intuitions and the observations made in the course of his many experiments. Maxwell, on the other hand, was a great natural mathematician, preferably effortlessly coming in second in the manual mathematics competition at Cambridge, to E. J. Routh, a man who later became -renowned as a mathematician.
Maxwell's shortcoming was his inability, despite the generous good nature, to express himself cogently in an oral presentation. He wandered. He compensated for this with the precision of his writing, which the authors say made his observations of pleasure to read, and attracted him a great worldwide base of admirers.
The book does not budget many words for describing the men's personal lives. Both were married, Faraday quite happily and successfully, Maxwell to a women with whom others found to be rather shrewish but took good care of her husband. One of the young Faraday's nemeses was the wife of his mentor, Humphry Davy. She was a snobbish, overbearing and even jealous woman who made a point of putting Faraday down for his peasant roots. It is a credit to the young Faraday that he accepted all of this for general good humor. That said, the stories of personal lives are rather brief, and one should look to other biographies for more depth.
Where the authors shine is in presenting the scientific work of the two men. A temptation with a work like this would be to dumb down the explanations in the expectation that the average reader will not understand them. That expectation would be valid with respect to me. I know quite a bit about science, but many of the explanations went over my head. I only half grasped them. I'm confident, however, from the part that I do grasp and from the style in which it is written that it is a thorough and competent exposition of the ideas of these great men. I expect that it will be a satisfaction to people who have a better grounding in science see these thoughts so well expressed.
The latter chapters of the book discuss the great names in physics who built upon Maxwell's theories. An initial inertia followed Maxwell's death. Maxwell had not sought to confirm his theories by experiment at the Cavendish. His thousand page treatise on electricity was rather daunting, the field notes of the first explorer and a new field, not organized well for study.
However, a handful of scientists, here called the Maxwellians, plowed through Maxwell's work and devised experiments to validate his theories. Two of the theories which had to be laid to rest were the idea of action at a distance, exemplified by gravity, then the existence or nonexistence of the aether. The series of brilliant experiments proved Maxwell to be right, and expanded his ideas to make them the foundation of physics. We are familiar with the names of many of the men involved: Lord Kelvin, Lorentz, Hertz, Heaviside and Michaelson are among them.
Let me note one error which escaped the technical editors. The speed of light is 300 million meters per second, not kilometers.
There is a quote from Einstein. Given the proposition that he had stood on the shoulders of giants such as Newton he replied, no, he had stood on the shoulders of Maxwell. Maxwell had stood on Faraday's shoulders, and Faraday on Newton's. The final chapter puts Einstein into the context of his time. Others were working with ideas such as the special theory of relativity, but Einstein had had the insights required to distill it down to very succinct formulations and proofs. In retrospect Einstein is often portrayed as a solitary genius. No, he was in the midst of contemporary streams of thought, distinguishing himself as a man who could see more and clarify things better than others, but strongly helped by the fervid climate of experimentation and the discoveries of others.
It is extraordinary that Great Britain produced so many great men in the 19th century. Producing great science is a matter not only of genius, but of opportunity. One of the observations the authors make is that both these men were polymaths. They succeeded a number of fields, some quite practical such as architecture, and in several different disciplines within the sciences. This was not uncommon. Benjamin Franklin in the previous century had likewise been a great natural scientist, biologist, and physicist, among many other things. Such was the nature of the times that there was a small enough body of knowledge that it was possible to be really well read in a number of branches.
The author describes at some length how the men's experiences in different branches of science reinforced their intuitions electricity and magnetism, which is the main focus of this work. They were men who were used to working with their hands. They observed electricity in living fish and dead frogs. They were of course familiar with Newtonian physics, and with Bernoulli's fluid dynamics. James Clerk Maxwell wrote a philosophical article in his college days on the use of analogy in explaining the natural world. He made extensive use of analogies, such as between the flows of electricity and water.
An altogether engrossing book. It raises questions in my mind comparing the science of today with that of the 19th century. We seem not to be producing many young scientists of this caliber anymore, despite the fact that the schools have constructed a virtual dragnet to identify talented minds at the earliest possible age. Why not is the subject for an essay, which I may latter append to this review. (NB - this is done - it is the third comment below).
The two men came from very different backgrounds. Faraday, the son of a blacksmith, had very little formal education. Early on, he became fascinated by electricity and magnetism and became convinced that there was some relation between the two forces. He educated himself by reading everything he could in those fields and in the field of chemistry and then devised experiments to further his understanding of matter and energy. He invented the first electric motor and the first electric generator and hypothesized the existence of an electromagnetic force field. His weakness in mathematics, a handicap imposed on him by his lack of formal education, made it difficult for him to advance his theories and have them appreciated by the scientific community of his time. But his strengths were his genius, dogged determination, and self-discipline. He recorded the details of every experiment and published the results---successes and failures alike. The publication of this work, "Experimental Researches in Electricity," would prove to be both the inspiriation for and foundation of the work of the next genius, James Clerk Maxwell.
Maxwell, unlike Faraday, was born into a social class of privilege. His father had inherited a large estate in Scotland and could afford to sent James to the very best schools in Scotland and England. Maxwell was a good student and excelled in mathematics, the area of Faraday’s weakness, and this skill would prove to be decisive in carrying Faraday’s hypothesis forward. Maxwell, like Faraday, as a young man became fascinated with electricity and magnetism and wondered if they were related. Searching out every bit of published information on these topics, he discovered Faraday’s "Experimental Researches." He was fascinated---not only by Faraday’s clear and detailed accounts of his experiments but also by the fact that the volumes were almost completely free of mathematical equations. Maxwell resolved to use his skill with mathematics to push forward Faraday’s work on electromagnetic fields and eventually show that they really did exist and what their nature was.
This book was not easy to read---especially the parts about the physics of electromagnetic fields. I labored through long passages of narration and description longing for an illustration or diagram to help me make sense of the words. The book does provide drawings by Lee Bartrop at certain key places, for example, “Fig. 4.1. Faraday’s first electric motor apparatus,” which appears at location 789 in the Kindle edition. But I think the authors missed many opportunities to help the struggling reader to understand these difficult concepts. The lay reader can appreciate this book for the stories about the lives of these two great men of science, but will have to be prepared for a difficult struggle to understand the chemistry and physics, the two unexplored territories these pioneers opened up for civilization.
In reading the book one gets a sense of the character of each and where there strengths and weaknesses lied. Faraday, born in 1791 was an incredible experimental physicist. He had the fortune early in his career to work with Davy who was a skilled experimenter as well. One gets a sense of the totally open nature of the subject during that era and how it was wide open to be explored. Faradays growing stature and influence is documented and the reader is familiarized with the deep insight Faraday had about discussing the phenomenon he was observing via a field theory rather than the action at a distance models that continental europe was focused on. The historical statements that are documented in the book give a sense of how visionary Faraday was. Despite his remarkable qualities as an experimental scientist he was not mathematically trained and the formalizing of the theory into something along the lines of newtons theory of classical mechanics was lacking. Maxwell, the Scottish prodigy, was to come along and bridge the gap. The history of Maxwell and his family is given as was his academic journey. Maxwell was a polymath and knowledgeable about a great many things without any ego. He brough methods of vector calculus to the subject of electricity and magnetism and at first proposed models purely to try to describe results rather than to figure out the actual physical processes that were occuring. Slowly though his more cumbersome models became more elegant simple mathematical explanations and Maxwell was the one who came up with the terms Div, Grad and Curl- methods fundamental to modern vector calculus and electricity and magnetism. Maxwell died young and his theory became more ane more appreciated as physicists caught up with mathematics and Oliver Heavyside simplified the equations a bit. The author briefly discuss the start of the quantum revolution as well.
Faraday Maxwell and the Electromagnetic Field is fun an enjoyable to read. I found it informative both from a historical account of two remarkable physicists and also a refreshed idea of how the theory was slowly developed from experiments that were only pieces of a much larger and complicated puzzle. The two men were remarkable and the authors did a great job giving the reader a sense of their accomplishment and how it has impacted all of our lives.
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