Electricity and Experimental Physics in Eighteenth-Century Europe

By R.W. Home

© 1992 – Routledge

320 pages

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Hardback: 9780860783183
pub: 1992-04-30
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About the Book

At the beginning of the 18th century there was no science of physics as we recognise it today; by the early years of the nineteenth century, there was. The articles in this volume are concerned with the process by which this came about. They focus, in particular, on the rise of experimental physics and the interactions between experiment, theory and mathematics in the study of electricity and, to a lesser extent, magnetism and physical optics during this period. Along the way, they provide a significant reassessment of Isaac Newton’s influence on the science of his successors. A further recurring theme is the process by which ideas were disseminated within the expanding scientific community of the day, and the manner of their reception, often in a form somewhat different from that envisaged by their first inventors, as Professor Home argues took place in the case of Franklin. The social and intellectual context of the ’scientist’, indeed, is the specific subject of several essays, dealing not only with England and France, but also offering new insights into the position of science in 18th-century Russia. Au début du 18e s., la science physique telle que nous l’entendons de nos jours, n’existait pas; dès les premières années du 19e s., cela n’était plus le cas. Les articles contenus dans ce volume s’intéressent au procédé qui a provoqué ce changement. Ils s’attachent plus particulièrement à la montée de la physique expérimentale et à l’interaction entre expérience, théorie et mathématiques en ce qui concerne l’étude de l’électricité et, dans une moindre mesure, celle du magnétisme et de l’optique physique durant cette période. Ce faisant, les études fournissent une ré-évaluation significative de l’influence d’Isaac Newton sur la science de ses successeurs. Un autre thème est celui du processus par lequel les idées étaient disséminées à l’époque au sein d’une communauté scientifique en pleine expans

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Newton on electricity and the aether; Force, electricity and the powers of living matter in Newton’s mature philosophy of nature; Francis Hauksbee’s theory of electricity; ’Newtonianism’ and the theory of the magnet; Out of the Newtonian straitjacket: alternative approaches to 18th-century physical science; Leonhard Euler’s anti-Newtonian theory of light; The notion of experimental physics in early 18th-century France; Nollet and Boerhaave: a note on 18th-century ideas about electricity and fire; Franklin’s electrical atmospheres; Some manuscripts on electrical and other subjects attributed to Thomas Bayes, F.R.S.; Electricity and the nervous fluid; Electricity in France in the post-Franklin era; On two supposed works by Leonhard Euler on electricity; Aepinus, the tourmaline crystal, and the theory of electricity and magnetism; Science as a career in 18th-century Russia: the case of F.U.T. Aepinus; Aepinus and the British electricians: the dissemination of a scientific theory; Scientific links between Great Britain and Russia in the second half of the 18th-century; Physical principles and the possibility of a mathematical science of electricity and magnetism; Poisson’s memoirs on electricity: academic politics and a new style in physics; Index.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies Series

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies Series was published in 1970. Since then well over 700 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. The well-established coverage of Islamic studies is joined by a growing list in Asian history and in areas relating to the 'European expansion'. Another major strand is the history of science, technology and medicine. In addition the list includes many titles dealing with the histories of philosophy, law, and art and architecture, while most recently the series has expanded with great success into the history of music.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies Series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, festschrifts, conference proceedings, and the like. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. All volumes are printed on acid-free paper.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
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HISTORY / General