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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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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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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Plaque to be unveiled for mountaineering buff John Tyndall

From the Kilkenney Advertiser (2008-11-13):

Plaque to be unveiled for mountaineering buff John Tyndall

Kilkenny Advertiser, November 13, 2008.

John Tyndall FRS and father of the modern science of environmental monitoring will be commemorated by the unveiling of a plaque in Leighlinbridge, by Professor Roger Whatmore, CEO of the Tyndall National Institute, Cork at 11am on today.

This is a ‘Science Week’ event and the recording of the unveiling will enable anyone around the globe to see this important event as it will be broadcast by the Institute of Technology Carlow on the web on tomorrow, Friday November 14.

Tyndall was born in Leighlinbridge in 1820 and was educated locally in Ballinabranna. He obtained a PhD from Marburg University and from 1854 devoted his life to researches conducted in London’s Royal Institution of Great Britain, where he was initially appointed as Michael Faraday’s assistant and where for a decade or more collaborated in glaciological research. The importance of Tyndall’s work is now being rapidly appreciated given the developing crisis over climate change. Tyndall was the founder of modern experimental meteorological science and produced the first equipment for monitoring both the air and water. His work contributed an experimental understanding of greenhouse gases.

The UK’s influential Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research is named in his honour. This Carlowman was also a founder of the science of nephelometry (light-scattering) with Louis Pasteur of the science of bacteriology. Interestingly, his work established modern cleanroom techniques as he devised particulate and dust free experimental cabinets for his pioneering bacteriological work. He investigated ‘the floating matter in the air’ in these cabinets with intense beams of light. This contribution is today centrally important in the world-class fabrication researches conducted in the Tyndall National Institute and it is very appropriate indeed that Professor Whatmore is to conduct the unveiling.

As a boy, Tyndall was a dare devil, driving his poor mother demented climbing under the bridge in Leighlinbridge. He later put his training here to good use in the Alps becoming the first man to climb the Weisshorn and the first to make a traverse of the Matterhorn. He was a founder of the modern sport of mountaineering and wrote what is arguably the first modern mountaineering book ‘Mountaineering in 1861’. Tyndall died in Hindhead, Surrey.

Check out:

Tyndall National Institute

Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Published in: on November 13, 2008 at 1:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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[Tyndall Blogged] Early Victorian Mountaineering and the Search for Scientific Knowledge

From the post “Early Victorian Mountaineering and the Search for Scientific Knowledge” on a blog called Victorian History (1 Nov. 2006):

The earliest mountaineers would not have thought of climbing without the encumbrance of scientific paraphenalia, particularly barometers, thermometers and theodolites. Imbued as they were with the Victorian middle-class work ethic, the scientists, amateur or professional, would have seen climbing for the sheer joy of the sport as a kind of moral failure. Pleasure could only be a by-product of the eternal search for knowledge.

Two of the greatest mountaineers of this early period were the scientists James D. Forbes and his great adversary, John Tyndall. Both saw the mountains as their laboratory and it was the scientific study of glaciers that brought both men to the Alps. Yet both were captured by the spell of the mountains albeit in different ways and at different times. For Forbes, the pleasure he experienced was “a satisfaction and freedom from restraint” which would “dispel anxiety and invite to sustained exertion.” Tyndall, whose theories were diametrically opposed to those of Forbes, nonetheless shared his predecessor’s pleasure in the Alps, writing that they “appealed at once to thought and feeling, offering their problems to one and their grandeur to the other, while conferring upon the body the soundness and the purity necessary to the healthful exercise of both.”

Read the entirety of this post here.

Published in: on October 18, 2008 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Physics and Mountaineering

In his chapter on “Radiation” (1865) in Fragments of Science: A Series of Detached Essays, Addresses, and Reviews, Tyndall described a diagram drawn by a Professor Müller, which showed the distribution of heat in the spectrum of electric light, as follows:

In the region of the dark rays, beyond the red, the curve shoots up to B, in a steep and massive peak – a kind of Matterhorn of heat, which dwarfs the portion of the diagram CDE, representing the luminous radiation. Indeed the idea forced upon the mind by this diagram is that the light rays are a mere insignificant appendage to the heat-rays represented by the area ABCD, thrown in as it were by nature for the purpose of vision.(1)









Tyndall further refers to the “summit of the peak representing the sun’s invisible radiation” and the “mountain of invisible heat.” As I have mentioned before, the Tyndall letters I will be transcribing concern his time mountaineering in the Alps in the mid-nineteenth century. So I enjoyed seeing his use of “Matterhorn,” “peak,” “mountain,” and “summit” when describing the diagram, a reflection of his two passions: physics and mountaineering.

I have my first disc of letters to transcribe, but I will begin working on those next week. In the meantime, more reading for background on Tyndall.

(1) Tyndall, John. Fragments of Science: A Series of Detached Essays, Addresses, and Reviews. Vol. 1. New York: Appleton and Company, 1897, p. 44.

Published in: on September 12, 2008 at 12:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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