The Creation of Scientific Effects: Heinrich Hertz and Electric Waves

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This book is an attempt to reconstitute the tacit knowledge--the shared, unwritten assumptions, values, and understandings--that shapes the work of science. Jed Z. Buchwald uses as his focus the social and intellectual world of nineteenth-century German physics.

Drawing on the lab notes, published papers, and unpublished manuscripts of Heinrich Hertz, Buchwald recreates Hertz's 1887 invention of a device that produced electromagnetic waves in wires. The invention itself was serendipitous and the device was quickly transformed, but Hertz's early experiments led to major innovations in electrodynamics. Buchwald explores the difficulty Hertz had in reconciling the theories of other physicists, including Hermann von Helmholtz and James Clerk Maxwell, and he considers the complex and often problematic connections between theory and experiment.

In this first detailed scientific biography of Hertz and his scientific community, Buchwald demonstrates that tacit knowledge can be recovered so that we can begin to identify the unspoken rules that govern scientific practice.

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Editorial Reviews

In this detailed scientific biography of Heinrich Hertz (1857-1894), Buchwald (history of science, MIT) examines Hertz's work on electromagnetic waves in the context of the social and intellectual world of 19th-century German physics. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226078878
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1994
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jed Z. Buchwald is Doris and Henry Dreyfuss Professor of History at California Institute of Technology. He was previously director of the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at Massachusets Institute of Technology.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
1 Introduction: Heinrich Hertz, Maker of Effects 1
Pt. 1 In Helmholtz's Laboratory
2 Forms of Electrodynamics 7
3 Realizing Potentials in the Laboratory 25
Pt. 2 Information Direct from Nature
4 A Budding Career 45
5 Devices for Induction 59
6 Hertz's Early Exploration of Helmholtz's Concepts 75
Pt. 3 Berlin's Golden Boy
7 Rotating Spheres 95
8 Elastic Interactions 104
9 Specific Powers in the Laboratory 113
10 The Cathode Ray as a Vehicle for Success 131
Pt. 4 Studying Books
11 Frustration 177
12 Hertz's Argument 189
13 Assumption X 203
Pt. 5 Electric Waves
14 A Novel Device 217
15 How the Resonator Became an Electric Probe 240
16 Electric Propagation Produced 262
17 Electric Waves Manipulated 299
18 Conclusion: Restraint and Reconstruction 325
App. 1. Waveguides and Radiators in Maxwellian Electrodynamics 333
App. 2. Helmholtz's Derivation of the Forces from a Potential 340
App. 3. Helmholtz's Energy Argument 348
App. 4. Polarization Currents and Experiment 351
App. 5. Convection in Helmholtz's Electrodynamics 354
App. 6. Instability in the Fechner-Weber Theory 356
App. 7. Hertz's First Use of the General Helmholtz Equations 358
App. 8. Hertz on the Induction of Polarization by Motion 361
App. 9. Hertz on Relatively Moving, Charged Conductors 364
App. 10. Elastic Bodies Pressed Together 366
App. 11. Evaporation's Theoretical Limits 369
App. 12. Hertz's Model for Geissler-Tube Discharge 372
App. 13. Propagation in Helmholtz's Electrodynamics 375
App. 14. Forces in Hertz's Early Experiments 389
App. 15. Hertz's Quasi Field Theory for Narrow Cylindrical Wires 393
App. 16. Considerations regarding the Possible Background to Helmholtz's New Physics 395
App. 17. Poincare and Bertrand 405
App. 18. Difficulties with Charge and Polarization 407
Notes 415
Bibliography 465
Index 479
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