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The Ascent of John Tyndall

Victorian Scientist, Mountaineer, and Public Intellectual

Roland Jackson

22 March 2018

ISBN: 9780198788959

576 pages
Hardback
234x153mm

In Stock

Price: £25.00

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

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

  • Drawing extensively on journals, letters, literary articles, and scientific publications of the time, Roland Jackson paints a detailed portrait of John Tyndall and his world in this first major biography for over 70 years
  • Sets Tyndall's life and changing ideas against the backdrop of the intense debates of Victorian Britain concerning science, religion, and society
  • Describes both Tyndall's scientific achievements and his major mountaineering expeditions
  • Captures the intellectual life of mid-Victorian Britain through Tyndall's interactions with figures such as Faraday, Huxley, Pasteur, Carlyle, and Tennyson
  • - Roland Jackson, himself a seasoned mountaineer, has been Head of the Science Museum, London; Chief Executive of the British Science Association; and Executive Chair of Sciencewise

About the Author(s)

Roland Jackson, Visiting Fellow, The Royal Institution

Roland Jackson is a historian of science, with interests also in contemporary science and innovation policy, and in bioethics. His recent posts include: Head of the Science Museum, London; Chief Executive of the British Science Association; and Executive Chair of Sciencewise. He is a General Editor of The Correspondence of John Tyndall, being published in 19 volumes by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Table of Contents

    A note on words
    Introduction
    1:Irish Beginnings (c. 1822-1844)
    2:Railway Mania (1844-1847)
    3:Queenwood College (1847-1848)
    4:Marburg (1848-1850)
    5:Making a Name (1850-1853)
    6:Clash of Theories (1854-1856)
    7:Glacial Explorations (1856-1857)
    8:Storms over Glaciers (1858-1860)
    9:Radiant Heat (1859-1862)
    10:Heated Exchanges (1862-1865)
    11:The X-Club (1864-1866)
    12:Eyre Affair and Death of Faraday (1866-1868)
    13:Prayer, Miracles, Metaphysics, and Spirits (1865-1880)
    14:Mountaineering in the 1860s (1860-1868)
    15:Clouds of Imagination (1868-1870)
    16:Dust and Disease (1870-1872)
    17:Government Service and Education (1871-1892)
    18:America (1872-1873)
    19:Fogs and Glaciers (1873)
    20:The Belfast Address (1873-1875)
    21:Floating Matter of the Air (1875-1876)
    22:Contamination (1876-1878)
    23:Electric lights and Mining Accidents (1879-1886)
    24:Hindhead (1880-1883)
    25:Rainbows and Lighthouses (1883-1885)
    26:The Final Years (1886-1893)
    Epilogue
    Notes
    Bibliography

Reviews

"Mr. Jackson amasses a wealth of detail to give a fuller picture of this extraordinary man... [He] has done a great service in his detailed and careful presentation of John Tyndall's life at a time when science is under attack, neglected and misunderstood, especially by those in government." - Peter Pesic, Wall Street Journal

"It was not until 1945, more than half a century after his death, that a semi-authorised biography of Tyndall was published. Now Jackson has authoritatively redressed this injustice." - Jules Stewart, Geographical

"This story reveals much about Tyndall ... [this biography] is immensely long and devotedly successful at unearthing the facts of Tyndall's life..." - Jonathan Parry, London Review of Books

"Roland Jackson has done a thorough job... it is certainly the best biography of Tyndall." - John Gribbin, Literary Review

"Splendid monument of a biography." - Barbara Kiser, Nature

"The book is well written, at times witty, at other times entirely engrossing. But its major strength is the close, first-hand knowledge of all of Tyndall's writings. Jackson knows Tyndall's primary sources better than anyone and that is why this biography is so satisfying. Jackson is close to his subject, fully grasps the science, has followed Tyndall's paths across the Alps, and has managed to write about it in a smooth, engaging style." - Michael Reidy, Metascience

"In Jackson's hands, Tyndall becomes the perfect lens through which to analyse the questions and controversies we are still dealing with today: the role of the humanities and sciences both in broader culture and in our education systems; the role of gases in global warming; and the increasingly close ties between science, industry, and government." - Michael Reidy, Metascience

"One of the most important mountaineering biographies to have been published in recent years... Roland Jackson's biography of John Tyndall is not only a tour de force of scholarship, its also an eminently readable book... It's a magnificent piece of work and a must-read for every scholar of Alpine history." - Alex Roddie, The Great Outdoors

"Excellent biography... The Ascent of John Tyndall is a long-overdue, magnificent tribute to an important, but largely under-appreciated scientist. Highly recommended." - Richard Carter, Friends of Darwin

"Roland Jackson paints a picture of an individual at the heart of Victorian science and society." - Playing Pasts

"Jackson's book is as comprehensive as it is overdue ... Jackson at once recounts the important events of Tyndall's life and uses Tyndall himself to build a richly textured picture of the social and scientific world in which he lived. The book favours a rigorous attention to detail ... Jackson's impressive facility with the scientific and political contexts of Tyndall's late-nineteenth-century world enables him to weave together a series of themes that define both the man and the period, providing a useful and comprehensive launching pad for a wide variety of forays in to the social and scientific worlds of Victorian England." - Joshue Howe, Annals of Science

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