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Electrodynamics from Ampi'Are to Einstein

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Overview


Three quarters of a century elapsed between Ampère's definition of electrodynamics and Einstein's reform of the concepts of space and time. The two events occurred in utterly different worlds: the French Academy of Sciences of the 1820s seems very remote from the Bern patent office of the early 1900s, and the forces between two electric currents quite foreign to the optical synchronization of clocks. Yet Ampère's electrodynamics and Einstein's relativity are firmly connected through an historical chain involving German extensions of Ampère's work, competition with British field conceptions, Dutch synthesis, and fin de siècle criticism of the aether-matter connection. Darrigol's book retraces this intriguing evolution, with a physicist's attention to conceptual and instrumental developments, and with an historian's awareness of their cultural and material embeddings. This book exploits a wide range of sources, and incorporates the many important insights of other scholars. Thorough accounts are given of crucial episodes such as Faraday's redefinition of charge and current, the genesis of Maxwell's field equations, or Hertz' experiments on fast electric oscillations. Thus emerges a vivid picture of the intellectual and instrumental variety of nineteenth century physics. The most influential investigators worked at the crossroads between different disciplines and traditions: they did not separate theory from experiment, they frequently drew on competing traditions, and their scientific interests extended beyond physics into chemistry, mathematics, physiology, and other areas. By bringing out these important features, this book offers a tightly connected and yet sharply contrasted view of early electrodynamics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198505945
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/28/2000
  • Pages: 552
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris
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Table of Contents

Conventions and notations
1 Foundations 1
2 German precision 42
3 British fields 77
4 Maxwell 137
5 British Maxwellians 177
6 Open currents 209
7 Conduction in electrolytes and gases 265
8 The electron theories 314
9 Old principles and a new world-view 351
Appendices 395
Abbreviations used in bibliographies 443
Bibliography of primary literature 445
Bibliography of secondary literature 485
Index 515
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