The Natural Philosophy of James Clerk Maxwell

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James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) was the most important theoretical physicist in the two centuries separating Newton and Einstein. He created the electromagnetic theory of light and made important contributions to the theory of gases. This scientific biography and introduction to Maxwell's physics and philosophy amply shows how he made revolutionary advances in theoretical physics by combining a firm grasp of physical reality with great mathematical ability.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
eThe book is wonderfully informative and insightful throughout; its merit lies as much in stimulating questions as in providing answers...what is most impressive about this book is its treatment of the whole range of Maxwell's activity as a natural philosopher with this kind of depth and nuance, making possible a synthesis that constitutes authentic progress in Maxwell studies." American Scientist

"James Clerk Maxwell brought about not one but two distinct revolutions in physics...In The Natural Philosophy of James Clerk Maxwell, Peter Harman explores both and allows us to experience a mind so mysteriously prescient as to see truths decades before anyone else did...Harman tells his tale skillfully, with an admirable use of quotations from Maxwell's published and unpublished writings." Physics Today

"...the author draws attention to the importance of Maxwell's studies in philosophy, which were to influence him greatly later, and the state of the ideas concerning the fundamentals of mechanics in the middle of the nineteenth century. After these preliminaries, the author goes on to discuss the work of Maxwell. Amongst the lesser-known topics which Maxwell studies are mixing colours, Saturn's rings and metrology, including the measurement of velocity of light, which was later to play an important role in his researches...This is an interesting book, showing the thoughts of a Scot who was undoubtedly one of the greatest natural philosophers in Britain...any physicist/applied mathematician will find much of interest in this book and it has my recommendation..." Ll. G. Chambers, Mathematical Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521005852
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1 PBK ED
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 1,485,994
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Table of Contents

List of abbreviations
List of plates
I Introduction: Maxwell and the history of physics 1
II Formative influences 13
III Edinburgh physics and Cambridge mathematics 37
IV Physical and geometrical analogy 71
V Models and mechanisms 91
VI Dynamical and statistical explanation 113
VII Geometry and physics 145
VIII Physical reality: ether and matter 162
IX Physics and metaphysics 188
Notes 209
Index 224
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