John Tyndall was born on 2nd August 1820 in Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow here:
As soon as he was able, young Tyndall left home to work for the Ordnance Survey, first in Ireland (Carlow, Youghal, Kinsale), but later transferring to Preston, Lancashire. It is just possible that he worked for William Dargan, surveying railways. Although he was keen on the outdoors, surveying was not doing much for his intellectual development so he enrolled in night classes at the Mechanics Institute in Preston. At the age of 27 he took up a post teaching school in the South of England. But his restless spirit took him to Marburg in Germany where he completed a PhD with Robert "Burner" Bunsen in a white hot 2 years. He travelled as a sort of scientific gun for hire building a huge bank of contacts and information. While on the continent, he developed a passion for mountaineering and bagged a number of "first Irish" peaks in the Alps. Expeditions in the high clear air made him reflect on radiation and he was the first person to articulate the basic principles of the greenhouse effect. He is also credited with the best early explanation for how the solid ice of glaciers travels relentlessly downhill. His curiosity about the natural world noted that the sky was blue, a fact which most of us take for boring granted; but Tyndall worked out from physical first principles why the sky is blue. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1852 in recognition of his manifold contributions - friction, light, electro-magnetism, heat, geology, sound, microbiology: eventually 147 formal scientific papers and at least three popular books Heat (1863), Sound (1867), and Light (1873). It was always important that he didn't lose the non-specialist: "In the following pages I have tried to render the science of acoustics interesting to all intelligent persons, including those who do not possess any special scientific culture. The subject is treated experimentally throughout, and I have endeavoured so to place each experiment before the reader that he should realise it as an actual operation." Tyndall was the epitomy of the self-taught Victorian polymath and knew all the others. He was a founder member of the X-club, an invitation-only monthly dinner club, which met regularly for 30 years. There two half ideas could bounce around the table to become a testable hypothesis.
I have pulled on Tyndall's coat before [Unknown has recently deposited a long informative comment under that post] and before that. Tomorrow at 1400hrs there is going to a an on-line FaceBook symposium [The Nationalist: executive summary] organised by the worthy Carlow County Museum.
Post a Comment