Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field
How Two Men Revolutionized Physics
Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon
Almost everything we value and use in our modern lives can be linked to the discovery of the electromagnetic field. Electricity, the Internet, television, radio, cable, wi-fi, cellphones, computers–all of these and much, much more have evolved from the collaborative discoveries of two 19th-century British scientists, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell.
“Faraday and Maxwell’s field was intangible and space was not just an empty geometrical container for bodies with mass, but a coherent interconnected system bearing the energy of motion,” the authors, veteran science writers Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon, point out. “It was the seat of action, rather than just an empty backdrop for Newton’s point particles being propelled by straight-line forces. These were ultraradical concepts for nineteenth-century minds trained to think only of things that could be touched and measured.”
In this well-written and nicely researched narrative, Forbes and Mahon skillfully and clearly interweave biographical details and each man’s scientific achievements, while also detailing how they worked together. The authors likewise highlight some key contributions of others who drew from, and helped advance, the discoveries of Faraday and Maxwell, including Heinrich Hertz, Oliver Heaviside, Nikola Tesla, Oliver Lodge, and Guglielmo Marconi.
Faraday and Maxwell changed the world by using only simple tools and the combined power of imagination, reasoning, and mathematics. For any reader who cares about modern scientific research and hopes to engage in, or support, discovery, this book can be both a revelation and an important inspiration.