Reflections on the Practice of Physics : James Clerk Maxwell’s Methodological Odyssey in Electromagnetism book cover
1st Edition

Reflections on the Practice of Physics
James Clerk Maxwell’s Methodological Odyssey in Electromagnetism

ISBN 9781032174068
Published September 30, 2021 by Routledge
276 Pages

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Book Description

This monograph examines James Clerk Maxwell’s contributions to electromagnetism to gain insight into the practice of science by focusing on scientific methodology as applied by scientists. First and foremost, this study is concerned with practices that are reflected in scientific texts and the ways scientists frame their research. The book is therefore about means and not ends.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

1.1. Methodology: Framing scientific knowledge

1.2. An Overview of Maxwell’s approach to methodology

1.3. Maxwell’s initial publication of 1856 (an abstract)—placing methodology at the forefront

1.4. Methodology as an essential feature of scientific practice: The case of Maxwell

1.5. The argument

2. Maxwell’s choice: Faraday vs. Ampère

2.1. Michael Faraday (1791–1867) and James Clerk Maxwell: A unique relation

2.2. André-Marie Ampère (1775–1836): The contrast

3. Thomson, Stokes, Rankine, and Thomson and Tait

3.1. Introduction: Methodology in electromagnetism

3.2. William Thomson (1824–1907): From analogy to representation

3.3. George Stokes (1819–1903): Idealization

3.4. William J. M. Rankine (1820–1872): Energy—a novel unifying concept

3.5. William Thomson and Peter Tait (1831–1901): Abstract dynamics

3.6. Conclusion

4. Station 1 (1856–1858): On Faraday’s lines of force

4.1. A novel methodology: Modifying the methodology of analogy

4.2. The structure of Maxwell’s argument

4.3. From the general to the specific

4.4. Confronting Ampère’s theory

4.5. Conclusion

4.6. Appendix: A bibliographical note on Maxwell 1858

5. Station 2 (1861–1862): On physical lines of force

5.1. Introduction

5.2. Preliminary: From instrumentalism to causality

5.3. The methodology: Linking hypothesis to representation

5.4. Applying the methodology: Assumptions and their consequences

5.5. Part III: A landmark in the history of physics

5.6. Conclusion

6. Station 3 (1865): A dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field

6.1. Introduction

6.2. Part I: Marking the goal—the construction of a formal theory consisting of a set of general equations

6.3. Part II: The flywheel analogy

6.4. The methodology of reversing the argument

6.5. Intermediate summary

6.6. A physical theory in symbolic language

6.7. Conclusion

7. Station 4 (1873): A treatise on electricity and magnetism

7.1. Introduction

7.2. Framework

7.3. Novel methodologies

7.4. The impact of the new methodologies on the construction of the theory

7.5. Conclusion

8. Philosophical reflections on Maxwell’s methodological odyssey

8.1. Commitment

8.2. Modifications of methodologies

8.3. Methodologies in Maxwell’s practice

8.4. Concluding remarks

9. References

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Giora Hon is a professor of the History and Philosophy of Science in the Department of Philosophy, University of Haifa.

Bernard R. Goldstein is a historian of science and University Professor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh.