March 11, 2014
From the modern-day conveniences that society has come to rely on, such as wireless communication, to the most groundbreaking scientific theories, like Einstein’s special theory of relativity, so much of what we take for granted today depends on our understanding of the electromagnetic field – the discovery of which rests squarely on the shoulders of two of history’s most brilliant and innovative scientists: Michael Faraday (1791-1867) and James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879). Faraday and Maxwell’s combined work in the nineteenth century to unravel the mysteries of this new, more-accurate conception of reality resulted in the creation of field theory, which turned the prevailing Newtonian, mechanical perception of how the universe works on its head and opened the door to many more exciting findings.
Faraday was an autodidactic who overcame class prejudice and a lack of mathematical training to become renowned for his acute powers of experimental observation, technological skills, and prodigious scientific imagination. Maxwell was a well-educated natural philosopher and a genius physicist; he made a number of groundbreaking discoveries in various disciplines and was a founder of the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge. The collaborative work of these scientists unified electricity, magnetism, and light under the concept of field theory, on which much of twentieth century physics, and modern technology, depend. In warm, engaging prose, Forbes and Mahon, veteran science writers with special expertise in physics and engineering, explore the lives and discoveries of Faraday and Maxwell to paint riveting portraits of two inspirational men who drastically altered the course of history.
Nancy Forbes is an experienced science writer with over twenty-five publications in the area of science and technology, including Imitation of Life: How Biology Is Inspiring Computing. She has also served as a contributing editor for the Industrial Physicist of the American Institute of Physics and for IEEE’s Computing in Science and Engineering. Currently, she works for the US Department of Defense.
Basil Mahon is the author of The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell and Oliver Heaviside: Maverick Mastermind of Electricity, among other publications. With degrees in engineering and statistics, Mahon was formerly an officer in the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and until his retirement he worked for the British Government Statistical Service.