Volume 1 of The Correspondence of John Tyndall published

From 2008 to 2010 I transcribed scores of letters by and to John Tyndall, knowing that they were slated for publication eventually. January 2015 saw the publication of the first volume of The Correspondence of John Tyndall, and the second volume will be published soon. And two more in 2016, and two more the next year, and so on. Eighteen volumes in all.


I am happy to share that I will return to working on the project, as a third co-editor for volume six (which will be published in 2017), with Darwin biographer Janet Browne and physicist Norman McMillan. The volume will cover the letters from 1856-1858. I will spend my time as co-editor largely look over the transcribed letters for accuracy with a fine-tooth comb. I’ll enjoy getting back into doing some history since I finished my masters degree in 2010, and am honored to have been asked to participate again.

You can check out the Amazon pages for the first two volumes. Too spendy for a personal library perhaps, but it would be great to request that your university library purchase the volumes, especially if there is a history of science department or emphasis. –> Volume 1 & Volume 2

Published in: on July 1, 2015 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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BOOK: The Age of Scientific Naturalism: Tyndall and His Contemporaries

Pickering & Chatto has published as part of their Science and Culture in the Nineteenth Century series a collection of papers about the nineteenth-century Irish physicist John Tyndall, who wrote and lectured for the public, was a member of the X Club and Darwin supporter, and vocal critic of religion. Most of the papers are from a conference, held in Big Sky, Montana in June 2012, that brought together historians and students working on the John Tyndall Correspondence Project to present their research. I attended, and presented my MA paper. Unfortunately, for the publication, I did not have the resources necessary to do continued research for my paper. But I am happy to see the publication out, and delighted to see my paper in the book’s very first footnote. If anyone wishes to see my paper – “The ‘efficient defender of a fellow-scientific man’: John Tyndall, Darwin, and Preaching Pure Science in Nineteenth-Century America” – let me know, and I can send you a copy.

Here’s the publisher’s information about the book:

Bernard Lightman and Michael S. Reidy, eds. The Age of Scientific Naturalism: Tyndall and His Contemporaries (Brookfield, VT: Pickering & Chatto, 2014), 272 pp.

Publisher’s description Physicist John Tyndall and his contemporaries were at the forefront of developing the cosmology of scientific naturalism during the Victorian period. They rejected all but physical laws as having any impact on the operations of human life and the universe. Contributors focus on the way Tyndall and his correspondents developed their ideas through letters, periodicals and scientific journals and challenge previously held assumptions about who gained authority, and how they attained and defended their position within the scientific community.

You can view the contents of the volume here, read the introduction here, and read James Ungureanu’s blog post about the volume here. Also, the first two volumes (of at least sixteen) of the The Correspondence of John Tyndall will be published by Pickering & Chatto in 2015.

Published in: on November 14, 2014 at 12:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tyndall subject of Irish podcast

The podcast Science Spinning in Ireland interviewed Norman McMillan about John Tyndall on October 12th. Click here (direct mp3 download).

Published in: on October 17, 2011 at 8:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Tyndall in the news

Portrait of John Tyndall FRS by John McClure Hamilton

Royal Society collection

Michael Reidy looks at Tyndall’s time in the Alps in “The Weisshorn, 1861-2011” for the Newsletter of the History of Science Society (July 2011)

Trinity College Dublin: TCD Geneticist Unearths Correspondence between Irish Physicist and Famous British Botanist (August 2011; that botanist is Joseph Dalton Hooker)

ThinkOrSwim.ie: John Tyndall – Ireland’s Greatest Climate Scientist (August 2011)

EPA Climate Change Lecture Series (September 27, 2011) – ‘Tyndall : His Work and Scientific Heritage’

History of Science Centre’s blog (Royal Society): The Xcentric Mr Tyndall? (September 2011)

Science Spinning: A (GREENHOUSE) GAS MAN: John Tyndall (September 2011)

Published in: on September 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm  Comments (3)  
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John Tyndall Conference, Dublin, Ireland, Sept. 2011 – abstracts due by July 1st


The Royal Irish Academy and the Environmental Protection Agency are holding a scientific conference on 28-30 September 2011, in Dublin, Ireland, to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of John Tyndall’s breakthrough experimental work on the absorption of infrared radiation by various atmospheric gases that are essentially transparent to solar radiation

John Tyndall is an overlooked genius from Ireland whose work revolutionised science and created entirely new experimental techniques and scientific disciplines. His work on infra-red spectroscopy served to form the basis of our understanding of the Earth’s climate system and current awareness of the threats of global warming and climate change. In this, he is ranked with the greatest physicists of 19th and 20th century – “Fourier, Tyndall, Arrhenius, Kirchoff, Planck and Einstein”, (Ray Pierrehumbert, Physics Today, Jan 2011). In the 150 years since the publication of Tyndalls seminal work, the sciences of atmospheric radiative transfer and climate have developed and deepened our understanding of the world we live in and our impact upon it.

This conference will celebrate Tyndall’s achievements and examine developments in key areas of climate science, current scientific issues and their implications. It will also celebrate the increasing recognition of Tyndall’s work and reputation.

Topics and Call for Abstracts:

The Tyndall Conference 2011 will cover the following topics, and the Scientific Advisory Committee would like to invite the submission of abstracts on topics 2 and 3:

John Tyndall: his life, work and scientific legacy – A number of presentations highlighting different aspects of Tyndall’s contribution to science.
Greenhouse Warming Potentials and other metrics for comparison of radiatively active substances.
Climate feedbacks: the current science.

Abstracts should be submitted by July 1st 2011.

Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Work on Tyndall from Ciaran Toal

Ciaran Toal has a forthcoming article that assesses the impact of Tyndall on the Association in the 1870s:

Toal, C. ‘Preaching at the British Association for the Advancement of Science: sermons, secularisation and the rhetoric of conflict in the 1870s,’ British Journal for the History of Science

He has also done work on Tyndall in Bristol 1875, one year after the “Belfast address,” which he will be presenting at the British Society for the History of Science conference this summer: “After Tyndall: Science, Religion and the Bristol Meeting of the British Association.”

Published in: on May 18, 2011 at 9:53 am  Comments (1)  
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Tim Jones on Tyndall and Huxley “Ill-Prepared Alpinists”

Head on over to Tim Jones’ blog Zoonomian for a neat post about Tyndall and Huxley in the Alps.

Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Two forthcoming books of interest

February will see the publication of Ruth Barton’s The X Club: Power and Authority in Victorian Science, in the Studies in History of Science series from Ashgate. Barton is an historian of science at the University of Auckland, and a participant in the Tyndall Correspondence Project. I assume this book is a culmination of her many published articles on the X Club.

March will see the publication of Ursula DeYoung’s 2009 dissertation-to-book A Vision of Modern Science: John Tyndall and the Role of the Scientist in Victorian Culture, in the Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology series. DeYoung recently received her doctorate from Oxford University. Here’s the summary:

“Ursula DeYoung examines a pivotal moment in the history of science through the career and cultural impact of the Victorian physicist John Tyndall, one of the leading figures of his time and a participant in many highly publicized debates that extended well beyond the purely scientific realm. This book argues that as a researcher, public lecturer, and scientific popularizer, Tyndall had a sizable impact on the establishment of the scientist as an authoritative figure in British culture. As a promoter of science in education and one of the foremost advocates of freeing scientific study from the restraints of theology, Tyndall was both a celebrated and a notorious figure, who influenced areas of Victorian society from governmental policy to educational reform to the debates over Darwin’s theory of natural selection. In contextualizing Tyndall’s varying fields of research and involvement, DeYoung explores many different aspects of nineteenth-century culture, including the development of public science, the role of popular media, and the growth of university research. It engages with the latest scholarship on Victorian culture and the history of science while at the same time exploring the reasons for Tyndall’s heretofore neglected reputation. This book aims to establish John Tyndall as an important and influential figure of the Victorian period whose scientific discoveries and philosophy of science in society are still relevant today.”

Published in: on January 6, 2011 at 9:13 am  Comments (1)  
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Tyndall plaque in Leighlinbridge

John Tyndall was born in Leighlinbridge, County Carlow, Ireland in 1820. Twitter user @Sid_PEOG posted the following on October 24th:

Was in Leighlinbridge-birthplace of JohnTyndall Here is their tribute to him.Too little IMHO! #histsci #atheism http://yfrog.com/mz8bjhj

Here is the picture:


Click here for more on Tyndall and Leighlinbridge, and here for images of other plaques around the village

Published in: on October 25, 2010 at 8:20 am  Leave a Comment  

More 19th-century caricatures with Tyndall

To add to my post about 19th-Century Caricature Prints with Tyndall, here are three more (all from Puck magazine) I have come across, two from the website Cartooning Evolution, 1861-1925, and the first one I saw on eBay (a reader of my Darwin blog emailed me a high quality scan of it but asked not to share it publicly):


Reason against Unreason, pitting luminous Men of Science (Darwin, Huxley, Tyndall, Spencer, etc.) against Supernaturalism, Fanaticism, Bigotry, and the Bible



June 3, 1885, "Mr. Beecher is Trying to Bridge the Chasm between the Old Orthodoxy and Science with his Little Series of 'Evolution Sermons.'"



March 14, 1883, "An Appalling Attempt to Muzzle the Watch-Dog of Science: 'The Society for the Suppression of Blasphemous Literature proposes to get up cases against Huxley and Tyndall, Herbert Spencer and others who, by their writings have sown widespread unbelief and, in some cases rank athiesm.' -- Tel. London, March 5, 1883."



Published in: on October 15, 2010 at 9:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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