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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field: How Two Men Revolutionized Physics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Max

    Newton credited his success to “standing on the shoulders of giants”. A British reporter asked Albert Einstein if he had stood on the shoulders of Newton. Einstein replied, “That statement is not quite right; I stood on Maxwell’s shoulders.” Maxwell could be said to have stood on Faraday’s shoulders. Forbes and Mahon’s book lays out how they transformed physics paving the way for the momentous discoveries of the twentieth century. Michael Faraday’s experiments with electricity and magnetism led n Newton credited his success to “standing on the shoulders of giants”. A British reporter asked Albert Einstein if he had stood on the shoulders of Newton. Einstein replied, “That statement is not quite right; I stood on Maxwell’s shoulders.” Maxwell could be said to have stood on Faraday’s shoulders. Forbes and Mahon’s book lays out how they transformed physics paving the way for the momentous discoveries of the twentieth century. Michael Faraday’s experiments with electricity and magnetism led not only to the generator and electric motor, but a new understanding of how these forces worked. James Clerk Maxwell used Faraday’s findings to mathematically define the relationship between electricity and magnetism and in turn electromagnetic waves and the nature of light. Their work led to the breakthroughs of Planck, Einstein, Feynman and many others culminating in modern field theories including today’s Standard Model. Faraday was born into a poor London family. As a bookbinder’s apprentice he seized the opportunity to read and educate himself. Fascinated by science he secured a lowly position helping the famous chemist Humphrey Davy at the Royal Institution. With hard work he established himself as a respected scientist, despite his lowly origins in a classist society. His unusual background for a scientist of the times would enable him to see things in ways others did not. With no education in mathematics or Newtonian principles, he relied on his disciplined keen observations, basing his ideas solely on his experimental results. He supported his work with meticulous notes and publications. In 1800 Alessandro Volta invented the battery. Now electric current could readily be produced at will. Twenty years later Hans Christian Oersted showed that electric current caused a magnetic needle to move aligning itself at a right angle to the wire. Faraday then built a primitive form of electric motor, in which a magnet moved continuously around an electric wire. Faraday experimented with electricity and magnetism for years discovering electromagnetic induction. Unencumbered by thoughts of Newton’s instantaneous action at a distance or Kant’s theory of attraction and repulsion, Faraday recognized that circular “lines of force”, a term he coined, mediated magnetism and electricity. In 1830 Faraday built a dynamo, in which a metal disc spinning in between a horseshoe magnet generated electric current. Faraday had realized that the lines of force were an electric field and that if an electric field could induce a magnetic one, the reverse would also be true. He reached these conclusions without mathematics. He was able to picture this force as waves similar to light or sound. His publications explaining his discoveries contained no formulas. In 1845 a young prodigy, William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin), read Faraday’s publications. Other scientists did not really believe Faraday’s lines of force were real. The seventeen year old Thomson did describing them in a paper with the same mathematics used to depict the flow of heat through a metal bar. That same year Faraday first used the term “magnetic field” in describing his experiments. He also gave a rare talk about his beliefs which he knew would be ridiculed. He postulated vibrating electric and magnetic lines of force pervading the universe with no need of the commonly accepted aether. The vibrations which he called “Ray-vibrations” were the lines of force. Light was a manifestation of these vibrations. As expected, Faraday’s “magnetic field” and “lines of force” were quickly dismissed by his peers. William Thomson moved on to other things, but in the 1850’s he suggested to a young James Clerk Maxwell that he read Faraday’s publications. In 1857 Maxwell published his findings on Faraday’s theory. Faraday was thrilled to find a brilliant mathematically trained scientist embrace his ideas. Maxwell compared the movement of an electric field to that of fluids. It moved from areas of high potential to low just as fluid moved from higher pressure to low. Adapting mathematics used to describe the flow of fluids he was able to encapsulate Faraday’s lines of force in a way more familiar to conventional scientists. Maxwell, born in 1831 in Scotland, was forty years younger than Faraday but blossomed quickly. He graduated from Cambridge, won the highly competitive Smith Prize and became a fellow of Trinity College. He wrote his paper reformulating Faraday’s ideas mathematically and moved on to the Chair of Natural Philosophy at Marischal College in his native Scotland. He was now twenty-five. In his late twenties he won the Adams Prize for showing mathematically that Saturn’s rings must be composed of small separate bodies (as seen later by the Voyager and Cassini space missions). He also formulated the first statistical law in physics, the Maxwell distribution of molecular speeds, paving the way for research in thermodynamics and the use of probability distributions in quantum mechanics. In 1862 Maxwell wrote a new paper on electromagnetism extending his prior work. Constructing an elaborate mechanical model, he depicted how an electric field could induce a magnetic one which in turn would induce an electric one repeating ad infinitum. With the supporting math he formulated the electromagnetic wave and validated Faraday’s original idea of “Ray-vibrations” from his 1845 speech. Just as with Faraday’s ideas, Maxwell’s were not well received by his peers. His mechanical model was seen as ludicrous. Maxwell said the model was imaginary serving only as an aid to thought, a visualization that helped him develop the mathematics. With that math he calculated the speed of the waves and found them to be the same (within experimental error) as existing measurements of light thus showing both to be the same phenomenon. Maxwell wrote a subsequent paper without employing any mechanical model, relying on Lagrangian math to show the interactions of the electromagnetic fields. He eschewed the accepted notion of action at a distance showing that the local action of the field explained experimental results. The math proved the waves existence even if we did not know any underlying reality. In a significant departure from accepted practice Maxwell held that a physical hypothesis was not necessary. Presenting his ideas to The Royal Society in 1864, he found little support. Few could understand his math which employed three dimensional vectors. He had dismissed the universally accepted aether without offering any physical alternative. It would be decades before the significance of Maxwell’s achievement would be recognized. Unfortunately Michael Faraday, suffering from dementia, was unable to appreciate Maxwell’s work. He died in 1867 at the age of 75. In a separate effort writing a book on heat, Maxwell conceptualized what William Thomson called “Maxwell’s demon”, a thought experiment which is still discussed in the study of thermodynamics. Then Maxwell took the job to build, set up, open (1874) and be the first administrator of the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, which would be the workplace of famous scientists like Ernest Rutherford, James Watson and many more. In 1879 Maxwell died of cancer, only 48 years old. After his death, a few believers, the Maxwellians, took up his work. One, Oliver Heaviside, simplified the math reducing it to four essential equations, the ones in textbooks today. In Germany in 1888 Heinrich Hertz first demonstrated the waves experimentally, for which The Royal Society awarded him The Rumford Medal. Guglielmo Marconi put the waves to practical use and in 1901 transmitted radio waves from Cornwall to Newfoundland. Maxwell’s work invoked local action, dismissed action at a distance, eviscerated the aether, proved electromagnetic fields and waves, and showed that reality could be represented by math alone; all ideas essential for twentieth century physics. As Einstein put it, “One scientific epoch ended and another began with James Clerk Maxwell.” Einstein elaborated, “Since Maxwell’s time, physical reality has been thought of as represented by continuous fields and not capable of any mechanical interpretation. This change in the conception of reality is the most profound and fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.” Interestingly in his formulation of electrodynamics, Richard Feynman went back to Maxwell’s more detailed math. Feynman noted, “…ten thousand years from now - there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the nineteenth century will be judged as Maxwell’s discovery of the laws of electrodynamics.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    I loved every page of this book. A superb tandem biography of Faraday and Maxwell (and Heaviside to a much smaller degree). It is refreshing to celebrate real heroes, even those who have been dead for 150 years. The last biographical science book that I read that was this good was Simon Singh's Big Bang which I also recommend although it has many superficial biographical vignettes. This was a non-technical read, although if you don't like science it would be a slog. However there are only three I loved every page of this book. A superb tandem biography of Faraday and Maxwell (and Heaviside to a much smaller degree). It is refreshing to celebrate real heroes, even those who have been dead for 150 years. The last biographical science book that I read that was this good was Simon Singh's Big Bang which I also recommend although it has many superficial biographical vignettes. This was a non-technical read, although if you don't like science it would be a slog. However there are only three sets of equations in the whole book and one of them is E=mc2 so it is not a textbook in any sense. It is pretty much true that the invention of motors, generators, wireless communications, radio,the theory of relativity and quantum physics would not be possible without this knowledge. I wonder how many years it would have taken other scientists to independently gather the empirical data and conclusions of Faraday or develop the fundamental Maxwell equations from it and then how many more years the other advances would have been delayed. To me that is as good a measure of a scientist's genius as any. As for Newton, Faraday, Maxwell and Einstein it is debatable who was the most ahead of his time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lemar

    I had thought that the leap forward to modern Physics was from Newton to Einstein. This book shines the spotlight on two true gentlemen of science, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell. They were the ones who freed Physics from a view of the natural world that compared it to a machine like a clock and brought forward the idea that it is the concept of fields of energy that underlie our physical reality. The affection and awe that Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon feel for these two giants are now m I had thought that the leap forward to modern Physics was from Newton to Einstein. This book shines the spotlight on two true gentlemen of science, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell. They were the ones who freed Physics from a view of the natural world that compared it to a machine like a clock and brought forward the idea that it is the concept of fields of energy that underlie our physical reality. The affection and awe that Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon feel for these two giants are now my own. Great Read!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    Fantastic book that I could not put down. Very well researched. Real physics discussed, but easy to comprehend. The authors really did great starting with Faraday. I liked the descriptions of his early motor/generator experiments. The science and his life were seamlessly discussed. I was very sad when Faraday died in the book. But what a great transition to Maxwell. And Maxwell really did stand on the shoulders of Faraday. Both of these men make me want to double the number of labs I use as a ph Fantastic book that I could not put down. Very well researched. Real physics discussed, but easy to comprehend. The authors really did great starting with Faraday. I liked the descriptions of his early motor/generator experiments. The science and his life were seamlessly discussed. I was very sad when Faraday died in the book. But what a great transition to Maxwell. And Maxwell really did stand on the shoulders of Faraday. Both of these men make me want to double the number of labs I use as a physics teacher. They were so practical. The conclusion of the book was a bonus, bringing Heavyside into full view, since Maxwell's equations as we see them on T-Shirts are from Oliver Heavyside's work. The addition of Einstein, Planck, Bohr, Feynman, and others that stood on the shoulders of Maxwell really rounded out the book. I had borrowed it from my local library, but I must by a personal copy of this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nyamka Ganni

    Superb! Mind-blowing! It was fascinating to learn about how electricity come to become indispensable part of our lives and how it all started with Faraday and many great minds before him! Absolutely amazing! I'm starting to love physics all over again! Btw, Faraday is my favorite scientist! Superb! Mind-blowing! It was fascinating to learn about how electricity come to become indispensable part of our lives and how it all started with Faraday and many great minds before him! Absolutely amazing! I'm starting to love physics all over again! Btw, Faraday is my favorite scientist!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Book

    Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field: How Two Men Revolutionized Physics by Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon “Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field” is an excellent, readable book on the life and contributions of two science giants, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell. Authors Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon join forces to provide the public a very enjoyable look at how the these two scientists built from successive ideas and discovered the electromagnetic field. This interesti Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field: How Two Men Revolutionized Physics by Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon “Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field” is an excellent, readable book on the life and contributions of two science giants, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell. Authors Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon join forces to provide the public a very enjoyable look at how the these two scientists built from successive ideas and discovered the electromagnetic field. This interesting 330-page book includes seventeen chapters, notes, a formal bibliography and an index. Positives: 1. Professionally written science biographies blended into one accessible narrative. 2. The fascinating topic of the scientists behind the electromagnetic field. 3. The authors have great mastery of the topic but most importantly were able create an interesting narrative without resorting to the complex mathematics involved in physics and in particular, electromagnetism. 4. Good use of diagrams to complement the excellent narrative. 5. An excellent introduction that teases the public of what’s to come. “It is almost impossible to overstate the scale of Faraday and Maxwell's achievement in bringing the concept of the electromagnetic field into human thought. It united electricity, magnetism, and light into a single, compact theory; changed our way of life by bringing us radio, television, radar, satellite navigation, and mobile phones; inspired Einstein's special theory of relativity; and introduced the idea of field equations, which became the standard form used by today's physicists to model what goes on in the vastness of space and inside atoms.” 6. In essence this book is the story of the electromagnetic field that is brought to you by blending the biographies of Faraday and Maxwell in chronological order. 7. Throughout the book, the authors methodically and chronologically go through the lives of the scientists involved as new discoveries lead to scientific knowledge. 8. A look at the history of electricity and magnetism. “Before 1800, all man-made electricity was static. The discovery of continuous currents came as a complete surprise and was in the best tradition of scientific serendipity.” 9. The fascinating life of Michael Faraday, his strengths and weaknesses as a scientist. “We shall never know what Faraday would have achieved had he mastered mathematics, but, paradoxically, his ignorance may have been an advantage. It led him to derive his theories entirely from experimental observation rather than to deduce them from mathematical models.” 10. Some of the world’s greatest inventions are highlighted in this book. “This time, the magnet revolved around the wire! Faraday had become a discoverer: he had made the world's first electric motor.” 11. This book is intended for the laypersons but it doesn’t cheat those us in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) fields. The concepts are well described and satisfying. “The “quantity of electricity thrown into a current” was “directly as the amount of curves intersected.” This statement was true whether the curves were dense or sparse, converging or diverging, and neither the shape of the wire nor its mode of motion made any difference, except that the direction of the current depended on what became known as the right-hand rule. It was the original statement of one of the most fundamental laws of electromagnetism—now called simply Faraday's law of induction.” 12. The genius of James Clerk Maxwell and how he was able to describe such esoteric concepts particularly for those times. “Maxwell's imaginary fluid was weightless, friction-free, and incompressible. This last property was the key to the analogy. It meant that the fluid had its own built-in inverse-square law: the speed of a particle of fluid flowing directly outward from a point source was inversely proportional to the square of its distance from the source.” 13. Fascinating look at how Maxwell fed from Faraday’s own genius to take these concepts to a better understanding. “As Faraday had found, these substances varied in their ability to conduct electric lines of force—each had its own specific inductive capacity. For example, glass conducted electric lines of force more readily than wood. In his model, Maxwell accommodated this property simply by endowing each substance with the appropriate amount of resistance to fluid flow—the lower the resistance, the smaller the pressure gradient necessary to produce a given speed of flow.” 14. The authors capture the essence of these great scientists and help readers gain a better understanding of who they were. “Though surpassed by his later writings, Maxwell's “On Faraday's Lines of Force”10 is, surely, one of the finest examples of creative thought in the history of science. In his book James Clerk Maxwell: Physicist and Natural Philosopher, Francis Everitt shrewdly characterizes Faraday as a cumulative thinker, Thomson as an inspirational thinker, and Maxwell as an architectural thinker. Maxwell had not only found a way to express Faraday's ideas in mathematical language but also built a foundation for still-greater work yet to come.” 15. Goes over Maxwell’s manifesto, which was to produce a theory that explained all the known experimental laws of electricity and magnetism by deduction from general principles. 16. Key concepts explained and differentiated, “Maxwell distinguished between two kinds of energy held by the field: electric energy was potential energy, like that in a coiled spring; and magnetic energy was kinetic, or “actual” energy, like that in a flywheel.” “Maxwell had achieved the seemingly impossible—he had derived the theory of the electromagnetic field directly from the laws of dynamics.” 17. A look at the Maxwellians. “He straightaway wrote to Lodge to ask for a full text of his talk and soon found that he had another admirer, Lodge's friend George Francis Fitzgerald, who was professor of natural and experimental philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin. Like Heaviside, Lodge and Fitzgerald had been captivated by Maxwell's work and both had been trying, first in isolation and then with mutual support, to carry it on. Now Heaviside, the independent recluse, had gained true friendship on his own terms, and the three of them, united in a common cause, became firm friends and formed the core of the group that came to be called the Maxwellians.” 18. Einstein’s admiration for Maxwell. “As Einstein put it: Since Maxwell's time, physical reality has been thought of as represented by continuous fields and not capable of any mechanical interpretation. This change in the conception of reality is the most profound and fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.” 19. Provides a timeline and a photo insert. 20. Notes and an invaluable formal bibliography. Negatives: 1. The supplementary material that is included is good but limited. I would have included a list of all the scientists listed in this book and their discoveries. A helpful timeline is included but an additional supplements add value to the book. 2. Even at it’s most accessible, if you don’t have much interest in science, this book will be difficult to get through. Not really a negative of the book just a reality check for onlookers. In summary, this is an excellent book that the layperson will enjoy and those in the field will cherish. The authors did a wonderful job of focusing on the grand work of these curious, driven scientists without obfuscating the narrative with esoteric equations. What a wonderful way to learn about the lives of two of the most significant scientists of the 19th century and their grand contributions to our lives today. I highly recommend it! Further recommendations: “The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell” by Basil Mahon, “The Electric Life of Michael Faraday” by Alan Hirshfeld, “Isaac Newton” by James Gleick, “Planck” by Brandon R. Brown, “QED” by Richard Feynman, “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” by Carlo Rovelli, “Tesla” by W. Bernard Carlson, “Einstein: His Life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson, and “Gravity” and “The Great Physicists from Galileo to Einstein” by George Gamow.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Graeme Roberts

    What a superb book! I have never read an account of the history of science that gave me such deep pleasure. The writing is uniformly elegant and precise, and so lucid that even non-scientists can understand concepts and hypotheses that stumped all but a few physicists at the time. Many physics books, even those intended to make the science understandable to the layperson fail in that regard. You certainly don't need to love physics to enjoy it, but I think that you must be attuned to the great b What a superb book! I have never read an account of the history of science that gave me such deep pleasure. The writing is uniformly elegant and precise, and so lucid that even non-scientists can understand concepts and hypotheses that stumped all but a few physicists at the time. Many physics books, even those intended to make the science understandable to the layperson fail in that regard. You certainly don't need to love physics to enjoy it, but I think that you must be attuned to the great beauty of science. Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell were very different in background and education, but they were both gentlemen of exemplary character. Maxwell, now considered the greatest scientific genius of the 19th century was both theoretician and experimentalist, able with hard work and consistent use of his unconscious mind to describe experimental results in mathematical terms. He transcended the concrete, mechanical assumptions of Newtonian physics, allowing his successors to further reveal the electromagnetic field. When asked if he had stood on the shoulders of Newton, Albert Einstein replied: "That is not quite right; I stood on Maxwell's shoulders." The book continues, "Maxwell himself would probably have said that it began in 1921 when Michael Faraday imagined a circular force around a current-carrying wire. Together, they gave future generations a model for the interplay of experiment and theory, where each illuminates a path for the other. Neither man was confined to the role commonly assigned to him by casual historians. Faraday, the renowned experimenter, put forward some of the most imaginative and daring theoretical ideas; and Maxwell, the cerebral theoretician, carried out some of the most demanding experiments." All of the advances that have made modern life better for all human beings have depended in some way on our understanding and application of the electromagnetic field. It would have come eventually, but how apt that such kind, humble, and decent men delivered it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Luis Roberto Reyes Romero

    Inspiring for those of us that, just as Faraday did, believe that true science is about experimentation and curiosity, not ONLY about complicated equations and mathematical proofs. Also, I learn more on 3 hours about the fundamentals of electromagnetism than from 2 semesters in college. Good read all around.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Dietert

    From start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this book-- it is exactly what I desired and expected it to be: A comprehensive tandem-biographical account and analysis of both Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell's personal and professional lives, as well as their seminal and groundbreaking experiments and formulations of a coherent theory of electromagnetism that provided the foundations and inspiration for almost all of modern physics. The authors do a fantastic job at blending the historical c From start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this book-- it is exactly what I desired and expected it to be: A comprehensive tandem-biographical account and analysis of both Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell's personal and professional lives, as well as their seminal and groundbreaking experiments and formulations of a coherent theory of electromagnetism that provided the foundations and inspiration for almost all of modern physics. The authors do a fantastic job at blending the historical contexts, personal lives, and scientific discoveries of each protagonist, and present the material in such a way that the text satisfies a reader, both emotionally and intellectually. The book begins with the story of Michael Faraday's early years in London, born to a poor family in the "Elephant and Castle" neighborhood of south London in 1791. The first 1/3 to 1/2 of the book follows Faraday's journey from a poor school boy to that of a distinguished member of the Royal Institution, a science-focused organization that exists in London to this day. Starting out as a book-binder's apprentice, the authors tell the story of Faraday's growing interest in electricity and magnetism throughout his early years, until his eventual partnership (as an apprentice) with Humphrey Davy, a popular lecturer, experimenter, and showman seemingly dedicated to bringing the "cool" side of science (via spectacular displays during weekly Royal Institution meetings) to the upper class of English society. In his early 20s, Faraday got the chance to travel around western Europe with Davy for 18 months, meeting similarly distinguished scientists as Davy, such as Ampere-- an opportunity without which Faraday might not have ever encountered the inspiration he needed to become the man of science he eventually did. Speaking at length with both his known and soon-to-be scientific idols, observing Davy's discourse with great minds, and participating in such discussions about topics at the edge of human understanding, when Faraday arrived back to England the stage was set for some of the most remarkable, creative, and disciplined experimentation that the scientific world of the 19th century had ever seen. In the following decades, about from 1810 - 1840, Faraday made incredible headway in the understanding of the behavior of electricity and magnetism. With his seminal "iron-ring" experiment, Faraday found the missing experimental link that proved the duality and relationship of electricity and magnetism. Additionally, by performing hundreds (if not thousands) of meticulously and creatively crafted and documented experiments, he published many papers that continually refined theories of both electro-statics and magnetism, ultimately condensing into a coherent yet novel theory of "electric and magnetic lines of force" (if you wish for elaboration, read the book!). Unfortunately, the one lacking aspect of Faraday's scientific career was that, given his lack of higher-schooling, he was unable to formalize any of his theories using the big guns of calculus or other maths that were prominent or under development at the time; alas, much of his experimental evidence was all but ignored by physicists and thinkers that put mathematics on a higher pedestal than reproducible experimental results. Luckily for Faraday (and the rest of humanity), the second main character of this historical narrative, James Clerk Maxwell, was born in 1831. From the beginning of his life it was, and in hindsight is, almost obvious that Maxwell would contribute something meaningful to the world. Most all who met the boy in his early life described him as just the right kind of genius: Maxwell was friendly and outgoing, and had a passion for understanding his reality through experimentation, incessantly inquiring the adults around him about the nature of things and how they work. As a teen, Maxwell placed near best-in-class in his formal Edinburgh schooling all the while charismatically participating in social clubs and gatherings centered around rational and creative discourse with his fellow classmates; He was perpetually cracking jokes, writing essays on philosophy, poetry, and songs, and never ceased to inspire those around him, seemingly always asking the right questions to incite the next round of debate! By the time he reached his early twenties, Maxwell's intellect was ripe for making seminal discoveries. Having just discovered several of Faraday's publications on experiments with electric and magnetic forces, Maxwell was deeply intrigued by the notion of "electric and magnetic lines of force", and how Faraday conceived of their interactions, counter to the scientific dogma at the time-- that electric and magnetic forces propagated through space time in straight lines between two bodies. From then on, amidst other scientific passions, Maxwell never stopped thinking about electricity and magnetism, and the potential link between the two forces, ever searching for a unifying theory to unite the two forces. At first, Maxwell conceived of a mechanical model of the "ether" through which electric and magnetic forces propagated; this model provided the conceptual stepping stone upon which his unified electromagnetic field theory sprung: empty space was occupied by spinning magnetic "cells", in between which electric charges flowed and spun when electric currents flowed or magnets moved in the vicinity of or through. After a decade or so of further sub-conscious dwelling on the subject, peppered with brief periods of deep focus and conceptual-stepping-stone construction, Maxwell discovered (or, formulated) a mathematical model that precisely quantified electromagnetic forces in a novel, coherent, and dissenting theory that was a radical departure from the contemporary understanding of such forces. With a stroke of intuition and creativity, Maxwell decided to apply the dynamical properties of physical space (introduced by Newton and other contemporaries) to a supposed "electromagnetic field", he succeeded in formalizing the duality of electricity and magnetism, and purported the existence of electro-magnetic waves, propagating through such a field. In his four part paper "On Physical Lines of Force", followed a decade later by the revolutionary and seminal "A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism", Maxwell laid the groundwork for all of modern electro-dynamics, opened the proverbial door for the theory of quantum mechanics, and almost single-handedly sparked the latter half of the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately for the humanity, Maxwell died in 1871 at the early age of 42, from the same type of gastro-intestinal cancer that his mother perished from when she was the same age, when Maxwell was 8 years old. One can only imagine what else he may have accomplished, what humanity might have further reaped in those years instead of in the following decades, had he lived even just a few years longer. Perhaps an unexpected third character in this narrative was Oliver Heaviside, who took Maxwell's formalization of the electromagnetic field (10-20 equations represented with quaternions and vector calculus) and distilled it down to the famous 4 "Maxwell's Equations" that are taught in introductory electromagnetism courses today and ever since. Without any higher schooling, after mastering the art of professional Telegraphy, Heaviside undertook the task of absorbing most all of the unified theory of electromagnetism presented by Maxwell in his Treatise. Ultimately joining an informal group of scientists that called themselves the Maxwellians (of which one member was the famous Heinrich Hertz, the discoverer of short-range radio waves), Heaviside worked alongside other ingenious minds to distill, understand, refine, and propagate Maxwell's correct interpretation of electrodynamics, bringing the theory to the masses and ushering in a new era of human communication "without wires" via the revolutionary discovery and harnessing of electromagnetic waves as a means of information transmission. I will never forget: "Wires do not actually carry any form of energy from one location to another, they instead act as a physical guide for an electromagnetic wave traveling along the wire; The traveling wave incites both electric and magnetic forces that propel charges along the length of the wire" (my words). If that doesn't make much sense, but sounds intriguing, I implore you to read the book! Within these pages, the stories of two of the most impactful and influential contributors to the field of physics are told; Many of us have heard of such names as Newton and Einstein (if not only vaguely understanding their role), but should necessarily incorporate the names "Faraday" and "Maxwell" into our repertoire and timeline of the progression of human knowledge and quest to understand the workings of the universe. If you, like myself, have ever found yourself wondering: "Wait, what exactly _is_ electricity, and how do magnets work... and, hey, aren't they somehow related?!", and feeling frustrated that you lack the intuition or even adequate conception of such forces even though you spent several semesters "studying" the subject in high-school or at University, I'd strongly recommend that you read this book. Such a well-told story about the magnificent men that connected humanity's knowledge to such fundamental realities of the universe deserves to be read, probably twice. Additionally, I would recommend either reading this book in tandem with someone who is your intellectual equal or superior, or at the very least find a conversation partner with whom you can regularly talk about the dense, not-quite-eloquently-put explanations of both Faraday and Maxwell's experimental and theoretical findings and mathematical formalizations. To be able to discuss such ideas with someone cognizant enough to follow, inquire, and aid in the interpretation and understanding of such abstract, creative, and complex models and conceptions of reality is invaluable.

  10. 5 out of 5

    G. Branden

    Forbes and Mahon have written a fabulous scientific biography, presenting us the life stories not only of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell, but of the birth of electromagnetism as a field of serious study, unifying the phenomena of electricity and magnetism, thought separate for millennia. In the final chapter they carry the story beyond Maxwell's death and link it satisfyingly with the development of quantum and special relativity theory. This book left me wanting to read a biography of Ol Forbes and Mahon have written a fabulous scientific biography, presenting us the life stories not only of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell, but of the birth of electromagnetism as a field of serious study, unifying the phenomena of electricity and magnetism, thought separate for millennia. In the final chapter they carry the story beyond Maxwell's death and link it satisfyingly with the development of quantum and special relativity theory. This book left me wanting to read a biography of Oliver Heaviside; Faraday and Maxwell are presented as near-saints, men of virtually unflagging grace and flawless conduct. That their lives are told so engagingly is a credit to the inherent fascinations of their fields of study, but also to the authors of this book. How much more exciting, then, would Heaviside's cantankerous life story be? Forbes and Mahon have included enough mathematics to do credit to Maxwell's contributions; Maxwell's equations are legendary in the history of physics and to omit them would have been an injustice. No understanding of calculus is required, and the vector concepts of "divergence", "curl", and "gradient" are carefully explained in a qualitative, accessible way. Even then, they come only near the end of the book, climactic discoveries that they were. The end notes frequently contain interesting supplementary information, and in the chapter where Maxwell's equations come into flower, the authors present there (briefly) additional mathematical and concepts from physical theory. In my view, this book is outstanding, model writing in the history of physics for the lay reader--and a far, far better effort than Steven Johnson's The Invention of Air on Joseph Priestley, whose story had the advantage of offering much more drama and excitement, and yet was handled clumsily and indifferently.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Howard Liu

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Aside from his obvious intelligence, what profoundly impressed me was Faraday's intellectual curiosity. Driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge and discovery, Faraday, a blacksmith's son who grew up binding books in a bookshop, became the greatest scientist in his time. He retained his wonder for the natural world throughout his life, constantly questioning and experimenting and developing theories, most notably that of electromagnetic lines of forces which completely abolished the prevaili Aside from his obvious intelligence, what profoundly impressed me was Faraday's intellectual curiosity. Driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge and discovery, Faraday, a blacksmith's son who grew up binding books in a bookshop, became the greatest scientist in his time. He retained his wonder for the natural world throughout his life, constantly questioning and experimenting and developing theories, most notably that of electromagnetic lines of forces which completely abolished the prevailing perception of science. While his experimental discoveries shook the world, his theories on how they worked were largely ignored in part due to his lack of mathematical background- he could not condense his abstract ideas into formulas that govern how things work. Then came James Maxwell, a true genius of his time who dabbled and made great impacts in many fields. I was particularly intrigued by the way his mind applies knowledge. He was widely read, and had an astute ability to draw on analogies in order to understand things. According to Maxwell himself, "although pairs of things may differ widely from each other, the relation in the one pair may be the same as that in the other... the relation is the most important thing to know, a knowledge of one thing leads us a long way towards knowledge of the other". He also believed in the power of the subconscious mind, often laying a particular area of research dormant in his mind for a few months before coming back to explore it in an entirely different approach. In this way, he was able to make discoveries and provide explanations using highly unconventional methods, and eventually consolidated Faraday's electric and magnetic lines of forces into a unified electromagnetic field theory. An expert mathematician in his own right, he conjured formulas that could accurately describe this phenomenon, which is the divergence, curl and gradient of a field. In an interesting note though, his propensity for dispensing metaphors made him largely a confusing lecturer, and his unwillingness to simplify his highly complicated math (so that it could be further expanded for future discoveries) made his theories very inaccessible to other men of his time, and he died before they became the universal truth that it was now. All in all, this book gave many inspiring insights about two scientific giants, especially the way they gain knowledge and apply it. A few important traits are curiosity, intellectual courage, and rigorous scrutinizing of their own work. Remarkably, even as busy as they were, both of them were great givers to the community, believing in education via the honing of an analytical and philosophical mind, and participating in various national projects to improve the infrastructure of the community.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Curry

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I can comfortably say this is one of the best History of Science / Science Biography books I have read. Forbes and Mahon give an engaging and concise history of the electromagnetic field. In the process giving us a detailed look in the the lives of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell. Somewhere in this book it is quoted that physicists everywhere still look to Clerk Maxwell as an inspiration and a role model. I would be surprised if any physics minded person c I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I can comfortably say this is one of the best History of Science / Science Biography books I have read. Forbes and Mahon give an engaging and concise history of the electromagnetic field. In the process giving us a detailed look in the the lives of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell. Somewhere in this book it is quoted that physicists everywhere still look to Clerk Maxwell as an inspiration and a role model. I would be surprised if any physics minded person came away from this book with a different impression. A quote from the last page that really sticks with me: "Their brilliance still inspires our search for scientific truth, and their deep humanity stills offers a shining example of how to live a scientific life."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brent Neal

    An engaging and involved biography of two of the most influential physicists of the modern age. One a seat-of-his-pants experimentalist, the other a careful mathematical prodigy, together they laid the foundation for all of modern physics. I especially appreciated that the book did not end with Maxwell's death, but rather continued the thread of how his ideas about electromagnetism were curated and expanded upon by others, leading ultimately to the Nobel-prizewinning work on the photoelectric ef An engaging and involved biography of two of the most influential physicists of the modern age. One a seat-of-his-pants experimentalist, the other a careful mathematical prodigy, together they laid the foundation for all of modern physics. I especially appreciated that the book did not end with Maxwell's death, but rather continued the thread of how his ideas about electromagnetism were curated and expanded upon by others, leading ultimately to the Nobel-prizewinning work on the photoelectric effect by Einstein.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shubhi

    Electromagnetism and field theory is an all pervasive concept, and powers almost every other aspect of our lives, and hence it’s a challenge to our mind to imagine of a time when it was difficult to comprehend these concepts, let alone discover, in the face of the prevalent mechanical view of the world. Faraday and Maxwell are, among many other great minds, humans who wandered at the edge of knowledge and science that was prevalent in their times. This book is not merely an account of their geniu Electromagnetism and field theory is an all pervasive concept, and powers almost every other aspect of our lives, and hence it’s a challenge to our mind to imagine of a time when it was difficult to comprehend these concepts, let alone discover, in the face of the prevalent mechanical view of the world. Faraday and Maxwell are, among many other great minds, humans who wandered at the edge of knowledge and science that was prevalent in their times. This book is not merely an account of their genius, but also of their passion, labour, and determination, and of course their courage.

  15. 5 out of 5

    AJ

    I really enjoyed this book. I got my PhD in optics, and have always joked that if I get a tattoo, it'll be of Maxwell's equations, in vector calc form. I appreciated reading about where the theories came from, and what "established" science was overturned to get there. I also liked how detailed the information was about the experiments, at least in the early part of the chapter. I felt the last third of the book, the people who came after Faraday and Maxwell, to be quite rushed. I would have like I really enjoyed this book. I got my PhD in optics, and have always joked that if I get a tattoo, it'll be of Maxwell's equations, in vector calc form. I appreciated reading about where the theories came from, and what "established" science was overturned to get there. I also liked how detailed the information was about the experiments, at least in the early part of the chapter. I felt the last third of the book, the people who came after Faraday and Maxwell, to be quite rushed. I would have liked more details about how we went from Maxwell's death to today. I mean, it was there, it was just quite hollow in relation to the rest of the book. Even the information about the Michaelson-Morley experiment was just a couple sentences long, and I don't think quite emphasized how important it was, or exactly why (although I know the reason) it disproved the luminiferous aether theory. Final thing, the e-book format was disappointing. I thought I had 30% of the book left, and then it ended. The rest of the book was pictures and end notes. At least in a paper book you can tell when the book is about to end. I was just gearing up when the book was over.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sujai

    Among non-fiction , I love memoirs and autobiographies the most. Memoirs and autobiographies of great men are a widow to the times of their lives, their thought process and habits that made them successful. Good memoirs come with great research on the subject matter that is related to the personality. For eg: I learnt many things about Relativity from his autobiography than many technical books.. I learnt many things about personal computers and the business of iPod and iPhone's from Steve Jobs Among non-fiction , I love memoirs and autobiographies the most. Memoirs and autobiographies of great men are a widow to the times of their lives, their thought process and habits that made them successful. Good memoirs come with great research on the subject matter that is related to the personality. For eg: I learnt many things about Relativity from his autobiography than many technical books.. I learnt many things about personal computers and the business of iPod and iPhone's from Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson. So when I chose this book, my motivation was to understand the thought process and circumstances that helped these scientists make some fundamental discoveries in physics that revolutionized physics . The book starts with the life of Micheal Faraday. Faraday did not have a formal education in math , but he made up for his lack of expertise by with practical experiments that helped him confirm his theories. His ideas weren't expressed formally and was not understood well by many physicists during his time. That gap was filled by James Clark Maxwell. Maxwell took special interest in the notes from Faraday and formalized them mathematically to create the Maxwell equations! Read more here : http://sujaiantony.blogspot.com/2020/...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elliot

    While reading my physics textbook, I read the brief biographical entries of Faraday, and later on, Maxwell, and was immediately compelled to learn more about these two men. Not only did I enjoy learning about electricity and magnetism, but their individual stories seemed fascinating. After a brief search, I found this book and it was perfect; biographical details aplenty, and in-depth explanations of their discoveries. Enough about me. The authors follow the stories of the mens' lives, starting While reading my physics textbook, I read the brief biographical entries of Faraday, and later on, Maxwell, and was immediately compelled to learn more about these two men. Not only did I enjoy learning about electricity and magnetism, but their individual stories seemed fascinating. After a brief search, I found this book and it was perfect; biographical details aplenty, and in-depth explanations of their discoveries. Enough about me. The authors follow the stories of the mens' lives, starting with Faraday and then Maxwell. It is inspiring and satisfying to learn about such excellent men who also happened to provide humanity with groundbreaking discoveries! Even if you aren't particularly interested in science, or if you don't have prior knowledge concerning electricity and magnetism, there is plenty to enjoy in this book. That being said, the science is covered in detail by the authors. It was fascinating to follow the thought processes of these scientists, and by combining the science with the stories of their lives, the reader is able to appreciate Faraday and Maxwell's brilliance and the novelty of their findings. The scientific material is detailed and complex, and even with the terrific efforts of the authors to make it easy for the average person to understand, if you are unfamiliar with these topics beforehand, you may find them hard to grasp. Don't be discouraged; it took years before Maxwell's own discoveries were understand fully by the scientific community. Which leads me to my final point. The authors include an interesting section that follows the "Maxwellians", the scientists who after Maxwell's death were able to understand his concepts and apply them to practical applications. This epilogue of sorts is important because it shows how important Faraday and Maxwell's contributions to mankind are. In conclusion, I highly recommend this book, both to those wanting to learn more about scientific discoveries, and to those who simply want to learn about two inspiring human beings.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    This gives a good history and explanations of the process that led physicists to the idea of fields permeating all space. I especially like that it covers a broad range of time from Faraday to Maxwell and even to Oliver Heaviside (who seems to be often forgotten in electromagnetic physics history). The story is engaging and I enjoyed learning more about Faraday (I had read a Maxwell biography before). The book definitely gives one a better appreciation to the genius and the kindness of Faraday a This gives a good history and explanations of the process that led physicists to the idea of fields permeating all space. I especially like that it covers a broad range of time from Faraday to Maxwell and even to Oliver Heaviside (who seems to be often forgotten in electromagnetic physics history). The story is engaging and I enjoyed learning more about Faraday (I had read a Maxwell biography before). The book definitely gives one a better appreciation to the genius and the kindness of Faraday and Maxwell!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    Faraday, unlike Edison or Ford, gave us an idea not a product and we should be grateful for that. The methodology, stuck with us to this day and most of his ideas on Electricity and Magnetism are still the basis for much of physics. Sadly for this author, good stories happen to those that can tell them. I was left with disappointment that more of Faraday's life and experiments not part of this story. I was left wanting more and there is much more to this story than what was covered. Faraday, unlike Edison or Ford, gave us an idea not a product and we should be grateful for that. The methodology, stuck with us to this day and most of his ideas on Electricity and Magnetism are still the basis for much of physics. Sadly for this author, good stories happen to those that can tell them. I was left with disappointment that more of Faraday's life and experiments not part of this story. I was left wanting more and there is much more to this story than what was covered.

  20. 5 out of 5

    David

    The back-to-back lifetimes of these giants in physics gave us much of what we have today. All radio-wave (Electromagnetic waves) need Faraday and Maxwell. Here is another physics book that reads like and adventure novel. Very addicting! It is so cool to see the experiments described that define the beginning of our understanding of electricity and magnetism. These are not high-tech because they are so incredibly early and fundamental.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Scott Kirkwood

    I found the frequent historical quotes distracting. Sometimes the author repeated themselves. would have preferred a little more math.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pinak Mehta

    Great admirer of Faraday and Maxwell!! They were truth-seekers and men with extreme generosity.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Siddhesh Ayre

    If you like to read History of science then this is a great read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Filip Ligmajer

    page 61 | location 930-934 | Added on Thursday, 17 July 2014 16:21:50 By Ampère's theory, the magnetic force was simply what you got when you added all the straight-line forces between pairs of current elements mathematically. Faraday saw things differently—to him, the magnetic force that curved around any current-carrying wire was not an indirect, mathematically derived effect of straight-line forces, it was something primal, a circular force in its own right. The idea of a circular force was qu page 61 | location 930-934 | Added on Thursday, 17 July 2014 16:21:50 By Ampère's theory, the magnetic force was simply what you got when you added all the straight-line forces between pairs of current elements mathematically. Faraday saw things differently—to him, the magnetic force that curved around any current-carrying wire was not an indirect, mathematically derived effect of straight-line forces, it was something primal, a circular force in its own right. The idea of a circular force was quite beyond the generally accepted doctrine of Newtonian forces, and Faraday's lack of a traditional scientific education probably made it easier for him to accept it. page 63 | location 965-967 | Added on Thursday, 17 July 2014 16:26:05 In August 1831, Faraday wrote in his laboratory journal the first words for a new project that was to become his finest work. His Experimental Researches in Electricity, a monumental opus written entirely in words without a single formula, had begun. page 65 | location 984-988 | Added on Thursday, 17 July 2014 16:29:33 Moreover, the patterns could be induced on the sand-strewn plate by stroking another plate a short distance away—vibrations in the first plate produced sound waves in the air that then caused the second plate to vibrate. As always, Faraday tried it for himself and explored every avenue by varying the conditions of the experiment. He was rewarded with an even more vivid demonstration of acoustic induction—when he poured a mixture of egg white, oil, and water on the second plate instead of sand, the vibrations showed up as very fine striations, a kind of crimping of the liquid mixture. page 68 | location 1036-1042 | Added on Thursday, 17 July 2014 16:36:35 Faraday decided to try a variation on Arago's experiment. He mounted a copper disc on an axle and set its edge in a narrow gap between the poles of a powerful magnet. He then made an electrical circuit by placing one sliding contact on the edge of the disc, placing another on the axle, and connecting the two contacts by wires to a galvanometer. He hoped that when the disc rotated, its motion relative to the magnet would produce a steady current across the disc that would register on the galvanometer. He spun the disc and watched the needle. It moved, and this time stayed in its new position; there was a feeble but steady current. And when the disc was spun the other way, the needle also reversed its movement. Ten years after making the world's first electric motor, Faraday had made the world's first dynamo. page 84 | location 1278-1282 | Added on Friday, 18 July 2014 08:40:09 In fact, these examples serve to remind us that he was working in completely unknown territory, struggling to make sense of the strange, and sometimes apparently contradictory, findings from his experiments. The wonder is not that he missed the odd point but that he somehow managed, from such confusing evidence, to produce ideas that were so unusual as to be almost impossible to describe in words, yet that turned out to be correct. Some of his ideas were not understood by anyone else until first the great physicist William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) and then James Clerk Maxwell, both Scotsmen from the following generation, expressed them in mathematical language. page 89 | location 1360-1369 | Added on Friday, 18 July 2014 09:14:48 To Thomson, as to Ampère, mathematics was the language of science. Where Faraday had to do his own experiments to understand a topic, Thomson had to write his own equations. His first impression of Faraday's Experimental Researches in Electricity, which gave not a single equation, was that they seemed to be written in a perversely cumbersome foreign tongue, but once Thomson saw the analogy of lines of force with Fourier's mathematical theory of heat flow, he began to take the idea of lines of force seriously—the first person, apart from Faraday himself, to do so. He was intrigued to discover that exactly the same results could be derived from Coulomb's and Ampère's theory of electrostatic forces, so were Faraday's lines of force simply another way of formulating instantaneous action at a distance between point charges? Thomson thought so at first, but he noted Faraday's finding that electrical induction took time to act, rather like Fourier's heat flow; and he found that the using the analogy between lines of force and heat flow actually made some calculations a lot simpler. He began to think that Faraday could be right—that lines of force could have a physical existence and that electrical forces could be the manifestation of some kind of strain in the medium between the charged objects. page 113 | location 1724-1732 | Added on Friday, 18 July 2014 10:49:51 It is difficult for us today to appreciate the immense importance then attached to saving lives (and cargoes) at sea. As late as 1912, the Nobel Prize in physics went to Niels Gustav Dalen for inventing a way of feeding gas automatically to lighthouses and buoys. His achievement, in the committee's judgment, had surpassed those of rival nominees Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, Ernst Mach, and Oliver Heaviside. Faraday's lighthouse work was a service to his fellow men, wholeheartedly given and well appreciated. And, rather appropriately, one of Faraday's comments on lighthouses illuminates for us how religious faith inspired his whole approach to scientific work. In a report, he wrote: There is no human arrangement that requires more regularity and certainty of operation than a lighthouse. It is trusted by the Mariner as if it were a law of nature, and as the Sun sets so he expects that, with the same certainty, the lights will appear. page 116 | location 1773-1777 | Added on Friday, 18 July 2014 10:56:04 In 1897, the Dutch physicist Peter Zeeman repeated the experiment, using a stronger magnetic field and a more refined apparatus, and he found the very effect that Faraday had been looking for. The Zeeman effect, as it is known today—the splitting of the light spectrum into several components in the presence of a magnetic field—makes possible such techniques as magnetic resonance imaging. We can only wonder at the man who, even with fading mental powers, was able to envisage this effect of magnetism on light. page 119 | location 1821-1830 | Added on Friday, 18 July 2014 11:02:20 Despite the universal acclamation of Faraday's scientific work, his greatest achievement had been largely ignored during his lifetime and was only beginning to surface at the time of his death. The great German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz made this tribute in 1881: Now that the mathematical interpretation of Faraday's conceptions regarding the nature of electric and magnetic forces has been given by Clerk Maxwell, we see how great a degree of exactness and precision was really hidden behind the words which to Faraday's contemporaries appeared either vague or obscure; and it is in the highest degree astonishing to see what a large number of general theorems, the methodical deduction of which requires the highest powers of mathematical analysis, he found by a kind of intuition, with the security of instinct, without the help of a single mathematical formula.15 A man of equal stature and complementary talents was needed to reveal Faraday's full greatness. That man was James Clerk Maxwell. page 127 | location 1945-1951 | Added on Friday, 18 July 2014 13:21:50 John Clerk Maxwell's plan was for his son to become a lawyer—a more successful one than he himself had been. This seems odd, given his son's obvious gift for science and his own fascination for technology, but his judgment was not wholly at fault this time. Science, then called natural philosophy, was generally thought to be an excellent hobby for a gentleman but a poor career choice: It was poorly paid and opportunities were sparse because there were few professional posts and the post-holders tended to remain for life, as Faraday did at the Royal Institution. Strange as it seems to us, science was not even thought to be particularly useful, as most of the great advances in industry and transport had been introduced and developed not by natural philosophers but by practical men with little theoretical knowledge, like Abraham Darby, the inventor of coke smelting, and George Stephenson, known as “the Father of railways.” page 149 | location 2280-2284 | Added on Saturday, 19 July 2014 09:58:44 Scanning the books and papers that Thomson had recommended, Maxwell soon saw that the state of knowledge about electricity and magnetism was unsatisfactory. Much had been written, but each leading author had his own methods, terminology, and point of view. All the theories except Faraday's were mathematical and based on the idea of action at a distance. Their authors had largely spurned Faraday's notion of lines of force because it couldn't be expressed in mathematical terms, except, in a limited way, through an analogy Thomson had made between electric lines of force and the steady flow of heat through a metal bar. page 152 | location 2325-2330 | Added on Saturday, 19 July 2014 10:07:51 and to each point on each sink. Electric and magnetic forces were known to follow a similar law—the force between two electric charges or two magnetic poles was inversely proportional to the square of their distance apart—so the basis of the analogy was set. The direction and speed of flow of fluid at any point represented the direction and strength of either the electric force or the magnetic force; the faster the flow, the stronger the force. It was a strange analogy—moving fluid representing static force—but it served Maxwell's purpose. And the beauty of it all was that the streamlines of fluid flow represented Faraday's electric or magnetic lines of force. page 171 | location 2607-2619 | Added on Saturday, 19 July 2014 11:24:24 Maxwell wrote up his new law and in the same paper made the important and surprising prediction that the viscosity of a gas, its internal friction, was independent of pressure. This happened because, at higher pressure, the dragging effect on a moving body of being surrounded by more molecules was exactly counteracted by the screening effect they provided. It was vital for the prediction to be tested by experiment—a verdict of false would demolish the whole kinetic theory, but a verdict of true would greatly strengthen it. As we will see, Maxwell later managed to do the experiment at home, with much help from Katherine. Elsewhere in the paper Maxwell made mistakes; he was off by a factor of 8,000 in one calculation because he had forgotten to convert kilograms to pounds and hours to seconds! Despite the flaws, his paper “Illustrations of the Dynamical Theory of Gases” drew gasps of admiration and put Maxwell in the first rank of physicists. However, the first person to recognize Maxwell's full achievement in bringing statistics into physics was at that time a schoolboy in Vienna, and he didn't see the paper until five years later. Ludwig Boltzmann was then so inspired by Maxwell's work on kinetic theory that he spent most of his career developing the subject further. The two began a kind of tennis match that lasted all of Maxwell's life; each in turn would be inspired by the other's work and counter with a further extension of the theory. Though they never thought of themselves as such, they were, in effect, a magnificent partnership, and it is pleasing that their names are linked in the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution of molecular energies. page 171 | location 2619-2622 | Added on Saturday, 19 July 2014 11:25:46 For all his strong and progressive ideas on teaching, he was, sadly, not very good at it himself. Yet the students liked him. They were allowed to borrow only two books at a time from the college library, but Maxwell took out more for them, something professors were allowed to do for friends, and, when challenged, he replied that the students were his friends. page 190 | location 2908-2915 | Added on Saturday, 19 July 2014 18:27:31 He had united electricity, magnetism, and light—a stupendous achievement. Yet his announcement caused barely a ripple. As physicists generally believed that an aether of some kind was necessary for the propagation of light, one might have expected them to accept Maxwell's extension of the principle to electricity and magnetism. But his model seemed so weird and cumbersome that nobody thought it could possibly represent reality. The reaction of his friend Cecil Monro was typical: The coincidence between the observed velocity of light and your calculated velocity of a transverse vibration in your medium seems a brilliant result. But I must say I think a few such results are needed before you can get people to think that every time an electric current is produced a little file of particles is squeezed along between two rows of wheels. page 191 | location 2918-2921 | Added on Saturday, 19 July 2014 18:28:33 Despite all his warnings, people couldn't understand that Maxwell's model didn't purport to represent nature's actual mechanism, but that it was merely a temporary aid to thought, a means of arriving at the relevant mathematical relationships by using an analogy. His analogy happened to use spinning cells, but that was by the way; it was the mathematical relationships that were important. page 191 | location 2928-2934 | Added on Saturday, 19 July 2014 18:30:26 According to Newton, the gravitational force between two masses was proportional to their product divided by the square of the distance between them. Simply replace masses with charges or pole strengths, and you had the basic laws of electricity and magnetism. But with the work of Coulomb, Ampère, Poisson, and others had come an assumption that the forces resulted from instantaneous action at a distance between the masses, poles, or charges. Newton himself had been careful not to make any such assumption—indeed, he had, as we've seen, described action at a distance as “so great an absurdity, that I believe no man, who has in philosophical matters a competent way of thinking, can ever fall into it.”12 But this warning had been forgotten, and throughout the early and middle 1800s, the only prominent physicists to challenge action at a distance openly were Faraday and Maxwell. page 196 | location 3004-3010 | Added on Saturday, 19 July 2014 21:50:38 In his first paper on electricity and magnetism, he had used the analogy of an incompressible fluid to give mathematical expression to Faraday's concept of lines of force. In his second, he had built an entirely different imaginary model from spinning cells and idle wheels—a model that he admitted was “somewhat cumbersome”—but one that had yielded remarkable results. With it, he had not only accounted for all known electromagnetic effects but also had predicted two startling new ones: (1) displacement currents and (2) electromagnetic waves that traveled at the speed of light. Even the most enlightened of his contemporaries thought that the next step would be to refine this rather bizarre model, but, instead, Maxwell decided to put the model to one side and build the theory ab initio using only the principles of dynamics. page 196 | location 3003-3010 | Added on Saturday, 19 July 2014 21:50:56 Maxwell was unique in the way he could return to a topic and raise it to new heights by taking a completely fresh approach. In his first paper on electricity and magnetism, he had used the analogy of an incompressible fluid to give mathematical expression to Faraday's concept of lines of force. In his second, he had built an entirely different imaginary model from spinning cells and idle wheels—a model that he admitted was “somewhat cumbersome”—but one that had yielded remarkable results. With it, he had not only accounted for all known electromagnetic effects but also had predicted two startling new ones: (1) displacement currents and (2) electromagnetic waves that traveled at the speed of light. Even the most enlightened of his contemporaries thought that the next step would be to refine this rather bizarre model, but, instead, Maxwell decided to put the model to one side and build the theory ab initio using only the principles of dynamics. page 213 | location 3264-3265 | Added on Saturday, 19 July 2014 22:30:13 Oddly, it was Maxwell's less frolicsome colleague William Thomson who named the demon; Maxwell wanted to call him a valve! page 214 | location 3276-3283 | Added on Saturday, 19 July 2014 22:34:02 Curl is the essence of the relationship between electricity and magnetism; it explains how the force of each connects with the flux of the other. At any given point in space, any vector, like magnetic flux or the velocity of wind in air, has a curl, which is itself a vector, though it may take the value of zero. Curl isn't easy to visualize, but it can be done. Think of water flowing in a river. The vector here is the speed and direction of flow, and, in general, it varies from point to point in the river. Now imagine a tiny paddle wheel somehow fixed at a point in the river but with its axis free to take up any angle. If (and only if) the water is flowing faster on one side of the paddle wheel than the other, the wheel will spin, and its axis will take up the position that makes it spin fastest. The curl of the water flow at out point is a vector whose magnitude is proportional to the rate of spin and whose direction is along the axis of spin, by convention in the direction a right-handed screw would move if it turned the same way as the paddle wheel. page 217 | location 3319-3323 | Added on Saturday, 19 July 2014 22:39:22 Only the final equations appeared in the alternative quaternion format, as a kind of optional extra—one that most people preferred to do without. So things were to stay until six years after Maxwell's death, when Oliver Heaviside reduced the number of equations to four and replaced the quaternion representation with a much simpler kind of vector algebra. He thereby incurred the fury of Tait, who accused him of mutilating Hamilton's beautiful quaternions, but, as we'll see in a later chapter, Heaviside gave as good as he got—both of them were masters of literary invective and enjoyed a good scrap. page 225 | location 3450-3456 | Added on Sunday, 20 July 2014 08:12:04 Henry Cavendish had also been ahead of his time. When Maxwell looked through Cavendish's accounts of electrical experiments performed a hundred years earlier, he was astonished. It was like finding a dozen unpublished plays by Shakespeare. Among a string of stupendous results, Cavendish had demonstrated the inverse-square law for the force between electrical charges more effectively than Coulomb, after whom the law was named. He had also discovered Ohm's law fifty years before Ohm and twenty years before Volta produced the first electric battery. His method was simple and painful. He connected two wires to the oppositely charged parts of a Leyden jar and grasped both wires in one hand. He then repeated the procedure with various circuit arrangements, each time judging the strength of the current by measuring how far up his arm he could feel the shock.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Vikrant

    3.5/5 stars - Most of us don't really remember what Faraday and Maxwell did; we have not much reason to. School textbooks somehow don't really capture the beauty of these geniuses. Incidentally, the first physics "textbook" ever was written by Maxwell and apparently it was also quite boring and most of it was incomprehensible to most. So that's that. A bit of meta-weirdness. But once you realise that Einstein considered Maxwell as the turning point in science, who in turn considered Faraday as t 3.5/5 stars - Most of us don't really remember what Faraday and Maxwell did; we have not much reason to. School textbooks somehow don't really capture the beauty of these geniuses. Incidentally, the first physics "textbook" ever was written by Maxwell and apparently it was also quite boring and most of it was incomprehensible to most. So that's that. A bit of meta-weirdness. But once you realise that Einstein considered Maxwell as the turning point in science, who in turn considered Faraday as the-shit, and the fact that nearly the whole of modern civilization is more-or-less based on the lives and work of just a couple men, you would feel like learning a tad-little-bit more about them both. Well, at least I did. And as I read more and more and got inundated by the sheer amount of knowledge that they both produced and got entranced by the logical beauty of their methods and the thrill of their lives lived over different countries and filled with heroes and villains and extraordinary friendships and betrayals and hopes and shattered dreams and achievements and mistakes....both of them died without warning. ----------------------------------------------- A great book with brilliant insights into the extraordinary lives - and the petty problems - that these two extremely-different-yet-identical men of science experienced. Along the way, this book also manages to manifest the messiness of research. I wish the book hadn't ended like essays that end with "...and then I woke up", but I guess that's just real life not caring about clichés as much as fiction does. A definite recommendation for teachers who are still teaching in schools, and for any ex-student who has passed from one!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mike Davis

    I wanted to learn more about Michael Faraday. For a long time, I've admired his outsider approach to scientific thought, and his overall modesty as a human. Since I am a chemist, I was familiar with his role in electrochemistry, but I was less familiar with his work in electricity and magnetism. His writing was detailed and very prosaic, and the authors of this biography followed suit. As a result, there are long passages describing the science that were difficult to follow, even for those with I wanted to learn more about Michael Faraday. For a long time, I've admired his outsider approach to scientific thought, and his overall modesty as a human. Since I am a chemist, I was familiar with his role in electrochemistry, but I was less familiar with his work in electricity and magnetism. His writing was detailed and very prosaic, and the authors of this biography followed suit. As a result, there are long passages describing the science that were difficult to follow, even for those with content background. I was very suprised by Maxwell. I wasn't ready to like him so much. I found his experiments to be enlightening and approachable. The stories about him were fantastic, even if the descriptions of his modeling of electricity and magnetism were challenging. In this book, however, there was a highlight on relationships and legacy. The complete (as it is) understanding of electricity and magnetism is incomplete if you only look at Faraday or Maxwell. They complemented each other, and the book really deals with that. The last portion deals with the scientists who built on their collective work. There is a lot of surprising information in here, both personal and scientific. The main reason for 3 stars deals with the science. That part was difficult to read, and would have benefited from more figures, and descriptions that were easier to navigate. This is not a book for a generalist, and would be a challenging read for a non-scientist. I do, however, appreciate the details and that it was not just a collection of personal stories that would only romanticize these men. It is very complete.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

    I picked up this book in preparation for visiting in a few weeks the James Clerk Maxwell museum in Edinburgh. I'm really looking forward to visiting the museum and taking a walking tour of all the sites in the city associated with the great James Clerk Maxwell. For As the reviewer says below, Newton credited his scientific success as, standing on the shoulders of giants. When Einstein was asked if he had stood on the shoulders of Newton, he said actually it was on Maxwell's shoulders. And Maxwel I picked up this book in preparation for visiting in a few weeks the James Clerk Maxwell museum in Edinburgh. I'm really looking forward to visiting the museum and taking a walking tour of all the sites in the city associated with the great James Clerk Maxwell. For As the reviewer says below, Newton credited his scientific success as, standing on the shoulders of giants. When Einstein was asked if he had stood on the shoulders of Newton, he said actually it was on Maxwell's shoulders. And Maxwell of course was standing in Faraday's shoulders. Richard Feynman said, "from a long view of the history of mankind -- seen from, say, 10,000 years from now-- there can be a little doubt that the most significant event of the 19 century will be judged as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics." It is an amazing story. But what really struck me the most about these two men was how incredibly kind hearted they were. I was thinking about how most biographies of great men and women for tray how complicated these people are with their strong points and they're weak points many geniuses were very difficult people. It was really pretty charming to read a story about such lovely human beings, who also happen to be great geniuses. Faraday was perhaps more extraordinary man given his background. But both were, as the author describes them pretty much the nicest people you'll ever hope to meet. I love this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mbogo J

    The strength of this book lies in how it put the faces to the ideas and personalized the story of the electromagnetic field. Apart from the main acts of Faraday and Maxwell, we got to know about other lesser known names like Dr. William Gilbert who was among the first people to carry a scientific inquiry into magnetism by building his own model earth to the brash responses of Olivier Heaviside who perfected Maxwell's equations and when accused of not using Quaternions he had a clever reply. He t The strength of this book lies in how it put the faces to the ideas and personalized the story of the electromagnetic field. Apart from the main acts of Faraday and Maxwell, we got to know about other lesser known names like Dr. William Gilbert who was among the first people to carry a scientific inquiry into magnetism by building his own model earth to the brash responses of Olivier Heaviside who perfected Maxwell's equations and when accused of not using Quaternions he had a clever reply. He told his detractors that he believed it was an american schoolgirl who had said quaternions resembled an ancient religion but they knew it not and did not worship it...This kind of banter was priceless. The book's weakness rests on the description of electromagnetism itself. The explanations were long-winded and confusing, the only way I understood them is because I had the benefit of coming across them elsewhere. If as a reader this is the first time you are coming across electromagnetism you might not understand a lot of the descriptions and may be forced to augment your knowledge by checking other sources. I must applaud Forbes for quoting verbatim the diaries and words of Faraday and Maxwell a practice which enabled the reader to see through their eyes and further enriched the story. I will recommend this to anyone with an interest in electromagnetism.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    This book will make you remember the wonderful Michael Faraday and the amazing James Clerk Maxwell! These were two extraordinary gentlemen, both seeking God's laws in nature by careful experimentations and brilliant minds, that will humble the reader. As a young man, Faraday travelled to France along with his hero, Humphry Davy, who was to receive a science prize... DURING the Napoleonic wars! There are many images and impressions that stand out, I would have to type a long text to attempt listing This book will make you remember the wonderful Michael Faraday and the amazing James Clerk Maxwell! These were two extraordinary gentlemen, both seeking God's laws in nature by careful experimentations and brilliant minds, that will humble the reader. As a young man, Faraday travelled to France along with his hero, Humphry Davy, who was to receive a science prize... DURING the Napoleonic wars! There are many images and impressions that stand out, I would have to type a long text to attempt listing them. You'll learn about froglegs hanging by brass hooks and by coincidence Luigi Galvani touched them with a wire, that was connected, thus closing a circuit of sorts and making the leg twitch. This coincidence and observation allowed his friend, another Italian, Alessandro Volta, to invent a battery about 10 years later. Up until then, electricity was only known as the electro-static effects, instant discharge, no steady flow of current! You'll also get glimpses at British university in the 1800s and such details are mentioned as students taking tough exams in an unheated room in January, sitting on three-legged chairs. Don't worry, there are hardly any formulas and not many diagrams. But the book still manages to give you an idea of what these men achieved. This is a book, that enriched me - this was memorable and impressive!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vivek

    Nancy Forbes book traces the history of the discovery of the rules of electromagnetism and the lives of the scientists, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell. I picked up this book because it was on a "best science books of the year" kind of list. The author manages to explain difficult concepts without the use of a single equation. In fact, even Maxwell's famous equations with the symbols for curl, divergence and gradient - mysterious even to someone familiar with mathematics - don't make it Nancy Forbes book traces the history of the discovery of the rules of electromagnetism and the lives of the scientists, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell. I picked up this book because it was on a "best science books of the year" kind of list. The author manages to explain difficult concepts without the use of a single equation. In fact, even Maxwell's famous equations with the symbols for curl, divergence and gradient - mysterious even to someone familiar with mathematics - don't make it to the book. It's a marvel that these early scientists groped about in the dark and came up with such beautiful models that fit empirical evidence even without understanding the exact mechanisms behind electromagnetic phenomena. Though the subject was familiar to me from the study of Physics in school and college, this book made my understanding clearer. I also re-read Maxwell's equations again and I think I understand them better now than when I first encountered them, so that's definitely a plus. Recommended reading though some high school level physics understanding might be required.

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