John Tyndall (۲ August 1820 – ۴ December 1893) John Tyndall caricature was a prominent Irish 19th-century physicist. His initial scientific fame arose in the 1850s from his study of diamagnetism. Later he made discoveries in the realms of infrared radiation and the physical properties of air. Tyndall also published more than a dozen science books which brought state-of-the-art 19th century experimental physics to a wide audience. From 1853 to 1887 he was professor of physics at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London.
Early years and education
Tyndall was born in Leighlinbridge, County Carlow, Ireland. His father was a local police constable, descended from Gloucestershire emigrants who settled in southeast Ireland around 1670. Tyndall attended the local schools in County Carlow until his late teens, and was probably an assistant teacher near the end of his time there. Subjects learned at school notably included technical drawing and mathematics with some applications of those subjects to land surveying. He was hired as a draftsman by the Ordnance Survey of Ireland in his late teens in 1839, and moved to work for the Ordnance Survey for Great Britain in 1842. In the decade of the 1840s, a railroad-building boom was in progress, and Tyndall’s land surveying experience was valuable and in demand by the railway companies. Between 1844 and 1847, he was lucratively employed in railway construction planning.
In 1847 Tyndall opted to become a mathematics and surveying teacher at a boarding school (Queenwood College) in Hampshire. Recalling this decision later, he wrote: “the desire to grow intellectually did not forsake me; and, when railway work slackened, I accepted in 1847 a post as master in Queenwood College.”و Another recently arrived young teacher at Queenwood was Edward Frankland, who had previously worked as a chemical laboratory assistant for the British Geological Survey. Frankland and Tyndall became good friends. On the strength of Frankland’s prior knowledge, they decided to go to Germany to further their education in science. Among other things, Frankland knew that certain German universities were ahead of any in Britain in experimental chemistry and physics. (British universities were still focused on classics and mathematics and not laboratory science.) The pair moved to Germany in summer 1848 and enrolled at the University of Marburg, where Robert Bunsen was an influential teacher. Tyndall studied under Bunsen for two years. Perhaps more influential for Tyndall at Marburg was Professor Hermann Knoblauch, with whom Tyndall maintained communications by letter for many years afterwards. Tyndall’s Marburg dissertation was a mathematical analysis of screw surfaces in 1850 (under Friedrich Ludwig Stegmann). He stayed at Marburg for a further year doing research on magnetism with Knoblauch, including some months’ visit at the Berlin laboratory of Knoblauch’s main teacher, Heinrich Gustav Magnus. It is clear today that Bunsen and Magnus were among the very best experimental science instructors of the era. Thus, when Tyndall returned to live in England in summer 1851, he probably had as good an education in experimental science as anyone in England.
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