Degrees Kelvin : a tale of genius, invention, and tragedy /
David Lindley.
Washington, D.C. : Joseph Henry Press, c2004.
viii, 366 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
More Details
Washington, D.C. : Joseph Henry Press, c2004.
contents note
Cambridge -- Conundrums -- Cable -- Controversies -- Compass -- Kelvin.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 317-324) and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
David Lindley holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics. He began his career as a working scientist with stints at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, England, and at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, but soon turned his talents to writing about science. As the Quizmaster for a phone-in segment of Sounds Like Science, a weekly radio science magazine hosted by Ira Flatow, he brought science to the public in a fun and engaging way.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2006-01-01:
Lindley's breezy, nontechnical biography of William Thomson, a Scotsman of Irish origin and the first scientist ever given a peerage, describes of one of the 19th century's great physicists, all but forgotten except for the absolute temperature scale Kelvin, named for him in 1954. Thomson was a mathematical prodigy whose fame and wealth were based on such practical applications of his physics as the laying of the first transatlantic cables in the 1860s and improvements to the compass (for which he won the Royal Society's Copley Medal), all described in this book. Despite his contributions to the early development of thermodynamics, Lindley staunchly opposed the concept of the physical atom, Maxwell's electrodynamics, and radioactivity; on the other hand, he believed in a physical ether and thought it probable that the origins of life on Earth were extraterrestrial. He disagreed with geologists and biologists over Earth's age; based on his understanding of energy conservation and heat loss, he argued that Earth could be at most 100 million years old, but more likely only 20 million years (putting him at odds with Darwinians). An easy-to-read, lively account of major events in the life of a largely forgotten scientist. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels. J. W. Dauben CUNY Herbert H. Lehman College
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2003-12-22:
William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, was one of the 19th century's best-known scientists and inventors. As Lindley (Boltzmann's Atom; The End of Physics; etc.) so comprehensively explains, Kelvin (1824- 1907) was largely responsible for the creation of the twin fields of electromagnetism and thermodynamics, and played a significant role in connecting England and America by transatlantic telegraph cable. Kelvin's work was so important and he was so well known that he became the first British scientist elevated to the peerage, and when he died, he was buried in Westminster Abbey near Isaac Newton. Yet, unlike other scientists of his and earlier times, Kelvin is no longer a household name. In his thoroughly engaging biography, Lindley expertly examines Kelvin's life and the thought processes of this mathematical genius as well as providing a rich overview of physics as it was created from what had been known as "natural philosophy." Lindley also does a superb job of explaining how, over the course of his life and by sticking to his basic scientific principles, Kelvin changed from an extraordinarily creative theoretician, in both the pure and the applied realms, to a scientific anachronism, defending outmoded ideas and refusing to accept new concepts. Lindley provides insight into a misunderstood scientific legend and into the process of science itself at a critical period of history. (On sale Feb. 24) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2004-02-01:
Having achieved some acclaim for The End of Physics, Where Does the Weirdness Go?, The Science of Jurassic Park, and Boltzmann's Atom, Lindley-an astrophysicist by training-will certainly receive more with this latest effort. He takes us into the delightful world of mid-19th-century British academia to the scientific circles of Joule, Stokes, Maxwell, Helmholtz, and, in the middle of it all, Thomson, Lord Kelvin of Largs. William Thomson, whose name (Kelvin) would be assigned as a unit of the absolute temperature scale, investigated thermodynamics, physics, electromagnetism, and mathematics. An innovative instructor (he introduced the hands-on physics lab for students), inventor, researcher, and author of over 600 scientific papers, he was also crucial to the success of the first transatlantic cable, for which he was knighted. Nearly every honor available at the time was bestowed on Lord Kelvin, including his burial beside Sir Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey. Understandable to the informed reader, this work will deepen science students' appreciation of the individual behind the science they are learning. Suitable for public, school, and academic collections.-Margaret F. Dominy, Drexel Univ. Lib., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, December 2003
Booklist, February 2004
Library Journal, February 2004
ForeWord Magazine, March 2004
Choice, January 2006
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Main Description
Unraveling the mystery of a life composed of equal parts of triumph and tragedy, hubris and humility, this new biography of Sir William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, yields a surprising portrait of a complex and enigmatic man.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. 1
Cambridgep. 11
Conundrumsp. 64
Cablep. 114
Controversiesp. 164
Compassp. 215
Kelvinp. 260
Epiloguep. 309
Bibliographyp. 317
Notesp. 325
Indexp. 353
Table of Contents provided by Rittenhouse. All Rights Reserved.

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