Ben Franklin Stilled the Waves: An Informal History Pouring Oil on Water with Reflections on the Ups and Downs of Scientific Life in General

Overview

Benjamin Franklin was the first to report the phenomenon of oil's power to still troubled waters and to speculate on why it happened. A century later Lord Rayleigh performed an identical experiment. Irving Langmuir did it with minor variations in 1917, and won a Nobel Prize for it. Then Langmuir's work was followed by a Dutch pediatrician's in 1925. p Each experimenter saw a little more in the result than his predecessor had seen, and the sciences of physics, chemistry and biology have all been illuminated by the...

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Overview

Benjamin Franklin was the first to report the phenomenon of oil's power to still troubled waters and to speculate on why it happened. A century later Lord Rayleigh performed an identical experiment. Irving Langmuir did it with minor variations in 1917, and won a Nobel Prize for it. Then Langmuir's work was followed by a Dutch pediatrician's in 1925. p Each experimenter saw a little more in the result than his predecessor had seen, and the sciences of physics, chemistry and biology have all been illuminated by the work. p Charles Tanford reflects on the evolving nature of science and of individual scientists. Recounting innovations in each trial, he follows the classic experiment from Franklin's drawing room to our present-day institutionalized scientific establishments and speculates on the ensuing changes in our approach to scientific inquiry.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780192804945
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/31/2003
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 981,560
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Tanford is Emeritus Professor at Duke University, Durham, NC, USA and a former Guggenheim Fellow. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) and lives in Easingwold, UK.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
1. Pouring Oil on Troubled Waters 1
2. The Reverend Mr. Farish 3
3. Lords and Ladies and Even a Pediatrician 4
4. The World Outside 7
5. Connecting Threads 10
2 Benjamin Franklin 14
1. Gospel of St. Benjamin 14
2. The First Fifty Years 15
3. First Mission to London 23
4. Ten Tempestuous Years 28
3 Friends and Influences 34
1. The London Scene 34
2. The Club of Honest Whigs 38
3. Biographical Sketches 39
4 The French Connection 50
5 Pliny the Elder 55
6 Eighteenth-Century Science 59
1. Apologia 59
2. Newton's Legacy 60
3. Ultimate Particles 63
4. Distinction Between Atoms and Molecules 67
5. Heat, Light, and Electricity 70
6. Science and Mathematics 72
7 Franklin's Experiment: The Observation 74
1. Author's Comments 74
2. Philosophical Letters 76
3. Farish Fails a Lesson 78
4. Franklin's Prologue 81
5. Experiment at Clapham 83
6. Subsequent Observations 85
7. Trial at Sea 88
8 How Small Is a Molecule? The Calculation Franklin Did Not Make 92
1. A Layer One Molecule Thick 92
2. Another Puzzle? 96
3. Numbers Tell the Tale 97
9 One Hundred Years Later. Science Comes of Age 100
1. Heart of the Empire 100
2. Science as Profession 104
3. Molecular Dimensions 109
4. Avogadro's Number 113
5. Note on the Birth of Modern Physics 115
6. Stilling Waves at Sea 119
10 Lord Rayleigh 121
1. Amateurs in Science 121
2. Biographical Sketch. Physics as a Pleasure 123
3. Why the Sky Is Blue, and Other Profound Matters 131
4. Oil on Water on a Laboratory Scale 134
5. Noblesse Oblige 139
11 Meticulous Miss Pockels 143
12 Comrades in the Search. The Flavor of Late Nineteenth-Century Physics 150
13 Ben Franklin Wonders Why (Molecular Interpretation) 168
14 In Praise of Water 174
1. "Water is the Origin of All Things" 174
2. Atoms, Molecules, and Ions 176
3. Attractions and Repulsions 180
4. Why Water Is Special 182
15 Irving Langmuir: Molecular Attitudes 184
1. America on the Move 184
2. General Electric 187
3. Questions of Priority 189
4. Award of the Franklin Medal 191
5. Molecules at the Interface 193
16 Biology--Cells and Membranes 203
1. Missed Connections 203
2. Cells are the Building Blocks of Living Matter 206
3. Membranes Define a Cell 208
4. Dynamic Biochemistry 210
5. Chemistry of Lipids 212
6. Water Is Surely an Important Bio-Molecule? 213
7. Crusader for Water 215
17 Ernest Overton--Gentle Genius 220
1. Prescient Intuition 220
2. Permeability of Cell Membranes 222
3. "Uphill" Transport 225
4. Molecular Basis for Anesthesia 226
5. The Farish Syndrome 227
18 Gorter and Grendel: A Factor of Two 229
1. Progress Postponed 229
2. Evert Gorter. A Life of Combat 230
3. Source of Inspiration 233
4. A Truly Classic Paper 236
5. Philistine Doctrine 240
6. Autopsy. Why Did It Die? 242
7. Resurrection 246
19 Epilogue--The Biological Frontier 248
Bibliography 253
Index 261
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