John Tyndall’s Vertical Physics

A new article in the latest issue of Physics in Perspective by Michael S. Reidy looks at the relationship between science and mountaineering in the nineteenth century, using John Tyndall as a case study (Reidy is currently working on a book-length treatment of this topic, exploring many figures, including Joseph Dalton Hooker):

John Tyndall’s Vertical Physics: From Rock Quarries to Icy Peaks

Michael S. Reidy

Abstract I analyze, through the work of the Irish physicist John Tyndall (1820–1893), the close relationship formed in the mid-nineteenth century between advances in the physical sciences and the rise of mountaineering as a sport. Along with groundbreaking experimental research in the physical sciences, Tyndall worked throughout his career to define and popularize the study of physics. He also was a pioneering mountaineer during the golden age of mountaineering. As he practiced his science, from rock quarries to the study of the blue sky, Tyndall’s interests in the fundamental forces of Nature brought him to the summits of mountains. His sojourns to the mountains, in turn, affected the manner in which he approached his researches. His science and mountaineering were tellingly mixed, and worked in unison to shape public perceptions of what physicists did during a period of increasing specialization and popularization of the field.

Published in: on June 18, 2010 at 7:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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John Tyndall Symposium, Thursday 24th June 2010, University of Leeds

John Tyndall

John Tyndall was a famous physicist, lecturer and prominent public figure in nineteenth-century Britain. This symposium aims to bring together researchers interested in the life, letters and works of John Tyndall, and to discuss the current international project to transcribe his letters of correspondence.

The symposium will be held in the Leeds Humanities Research Institute, on Clarendon Place within the University of Leeds. This is site 25 on the university’s campus map. The ‘Freecitybus‘, which passes through the train and bus stations, stops at Clarendon way, a 5-minute walk away from the Institute.

There will be a registration fee of £5 to help cover costs, which can be paid on the day. If you would like to attend the event please contact Mike Finn by Friday 18th June. Download a poster for the event here.

Time Programme


Arrivals and registration

Introduction by Graeme Gooday (University of Leeds)

Session 1




Chaired by Efram Sera-Shriar (University of Leeds)

Michael Reidy (Montana State University)
“Bringing Science to the Humanities: The John Tyndall Correspondence Project”

James Elwick (York University, Toronto)
“Transcribing Tyndall, or, how to make Collaborative Academic Networks more than just a Buzzphrase”

Tea & Coffee

Session 2





Chaired by Jon Topham (University of Leeds)

Graeme GoodayJamie Stark (University of Leeds)
“John Tyndall: Lecturing, Authority and Correspondence in Victorian Public Science”

Mike Finn (University of Leeds)
“Following Your Example at a Distance: The Carlylean Balancing of John Tyndall & James Crichton-Browne”

Michael Reidy (Montana State University)
“John Tyndall’s Vertical Physics”


Session 3





Chaired by Geoffrey Cantor (Emeritus, University of Leeds / UCL)

Frank James (Royal Institution of Great Britain)
“Father, Son, Brother, Colleagues?: Michael Faraday and John Tyndall”


Bernard Lightman (York University, Toronto)
“Tyndall and Patronage”

Wine Reception

Published in: on June 7, 2010 at 6:09 pm  Comments (6)