[Tyndall Blogged] Funny Deaths

From the blog Revolving Doors (2008-12-17):

Funny Deaths

There are many ways to leave this world. John Tyndall, famous Irish scientist who discovered that CO2 and vapor enables the atmosphere to trap heat, died in a rather anticlimactic way. In his late years he suffered from insomnia and his wife accidentally killed him when she by mistake gave him too much of his sleep medication. I wonder how he exclaimed his last words: “Louisa, my poor darling, you have just killed your John”. Matter-of-factly, fearfully, tensely, laughingly, angrily, whisperingly, chokingly, gigglingly, graspingly, gaspingly, disappointedly?

Another famous scientist who was interested in the trapping of heat, Jean-Baptist Fourier, was actually killed indirectly by self-inflicted heat confinement. He had this idea that heat was essential for good health. He always kept his home extra warm an he wore multiple layers of clothes. A fall down a flight of stairs sent him to heaven.

I read about these deaths in Professor Christian Azaar’s book Makten över klimatet.

John & Louisa Tyndall in 1884

John & Louisa Tyndall in 1884

I don’t think I would call Tyndall’s death funny… Unfortunate, yes. Funny, no. Louisa was so distraught over the accident  (1893) that she devoted her time to collecting Tyndall’s papers and letters with the intention of producing a grand Life and Letters of Tyndall. It proved such a large task that it was incomplete when she died in 1940. Others continued the project for her and published Life and Work of John Tyndall in 1945. It has been a while since a Tyndall biography, and one of the benefits of the John Tyndall Correspondence Project is the writing of a new biography.

Published in: on December 18, 2008 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment  

The New Scriptures According to Tyndall, Darwin, Etc.

I found this in the Times and Register of March 26, 1892, but I’ve seen it in other periodicals from at least 1875, one year after Tyndall’s call for the authority of science and materialism – his address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Belfast:




PRIMARILY, the Unknowable, moved upon cosmos, and evolved protoplasm.

2. And protoplasm was inorganic and indifferentiated, containing all things in potential energy; and a spirit of evolution moved upon the fluid mass.

3. And the Unknowable said, Let atoms attract; and their contact begat light, heat and electricity.

4. And the Unconditional differentiated the atoms, each after its kind, and their combinations begat rock, air and water.

5. And there went out a spirit of evolution from the Unconditioned, and, working in protoplasm by accretion and absorption, produced the organic cell.

6. And cell by nutrition, evolved by primordial germ, and germ developed protogene, and protogene begat eozoön, and eozoön begat monad, and monad begat animalcule.

7. And animalcule begat ephemera; then began creeping things to multiply on the face of the earth.

8. And earthy atom in vegetable protoplasm begat the molecule, and thence came all grass and every herb in the earth.

9. And animalculæ in the water evolved fins, tails, claws and scales; and in the air, wings and beaks; and on the land there sprouted such organs as were necessary, as played upon by the environment.

10. And by accretion and absorption came the radiata and mollusca, and mollusca begat articulata, and articulata begat vertebrata.

11. Now these are the generations of the higher vertebrata, in the cosmic period that the Unknowable evoluted the bipedal mammalia.

12. And every man of the earth, while he was yet a monkey, and the horse, while he was a hipparion, and the hipparion, before he was an oredon.

13. Out of the ascidian came the amphibian and begat the pentadactyle, and the pentadactyle by inheritance and selection produced the hylobate, from which are the simiadæ in all their tribe.

14. And out of the simiadæ the lemur prevailed above his fellows and produced the platyrrhine monkey.

15. And the platyrrhine begat the catarrhine, and the catarrhine monkey begat the anthropoid ape, and the ape begat the longimanous ourang, and the ourang begat the chimpanzee, and the chimpanzee evoluted the what-is-it.

16. And the what-is-it went into the land of Nod and took him a wife of the longimanous gibbons.

17. And in the process of the cosmic period were born unto them and their children the anthropomorphic primordial types.

18. The homunculus, the prognathus, the troglodytes, the autochthon, the terragen – these are the generations of primeval man.

19. And primeval man was naked and not ashamed, but lived in quadrumanous innocence, and struggled mightily to harmonize with the environment.

20. And by inheritance and natural selection did he progress from the stable and homogeneous to the complex and heterogeneous; for the weakest died, and the strongest grew and multiplied.

21. And man grew a thumb, for that he had need of it, and developed capacities for prey.

22. For behold, the swiftes men caught the most animals, and the swifest animals got away from the most men; wherefore, the slow animals were eaten, and the slow men starved to death.

23. And as types were differentiated, the weaker types continually disappeared.

24. And the earth was filled with violence; for man strove with man and tribe with tribe, whereby they killed off the weak and foolish, and secured the survival of the fittest.


Crossposted at The Dispersal of Darwin.

Published in: on December 6, 2008 at 12:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Scientific American: Carbon Dioxide and Climate

Scientific American online has up an article from July 1959 about the role of carbon dioxide in climate change. Of course, Tyndall is mentioned in this article as having stated the theory in 1861:

Even the carbon dioxide theory is not new; the basic idea was first precisely stated in 1861 by the noted British physicist John Tyndall. He attributed climatic temperature-changes to variations in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The article links to a video on SciAm’s blog 60-Second Science about “A history of the climate change conspiracy,” featuring historian of science Naomi Oreskes:

Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Tyndall Died Today in 1893

From Today in Science History:

British physicist who demonstrated why the sky is blue. His initial scientific reputation was based on a study of diamagnetism. He carried out research on radiant heat, studied spontaneous generation and the germ theory of disease, glacier motion, sound, the diffusion of light in the atmosphere and a host of related topics. He showed that ozone was an oxygen cluster rather than a hydrogen compound, and invented the firemans respirator and made other less well-known inventions including better fog-horns. One of his most important inventions, the light pipe, has led to the development of fibre optics. The modern light instrument is known as the gastroscope, which enables internal observations of a patient’s stomach without surgery. Tyndall was a very popular lecturer.

Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment