From Publishers Weekly
William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, was one of the 19th century's best-known scientists and inventors. As Lindley (Boltzmann's Atom; The End of Physics; etc.) so comprehensively explains, Kelvin (1824 1907) was largely responsible for the creation of the twin fields of electromagnetism and thermodynamics, and played a significant role in connecting England and America by transatlantic telegraph cable. Kelvin's work was so important and he was so well known that he became the first British scientist elevated to the peerage, and when he died, he was buried in Westminster Abbey near Isaac Newton. Yet, unlike other scientists of his and earlier times, Kelvin is no longer a household name. In his thoroughly engaging biography, Lindley expertly examines Kelvin's life and the thought processes of this mathematical genius as well as providing a rich overview of physics as it was created from what had been known as "natural philosophy." Lindley also does a superb job of explaining how, over the course of his life and by sticking to his basic scientific principles, Kelvin changed from an extraordinarily creative theoretician, in both the pure and the applied realms, to a scientific anachronism, defending outmoded ideas and refusing to accept new concepts. Lindley provides insight into a misunderstood scientific legend and into the process of science itself at a critical period of history.
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From Scientific American
William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (18241907), made major contributions to 19th-century physics and technology but is mainly known today through the attachment of his name to a scale of temperature. Lindley, an astrophysicist who now focuses on writing about science, brings Kelvin to life in this excellent biography. The young Kelvin, Lindley writes, "made astonishing progress in the quest to understand the nature of heat, work, and energy, and in the parallel effort to elucidate the nature of electricity and magnetism." Kelvin's theory of undersea signal transmission was fundamental for the installation of transatlantic cables, and he was involved in work on power generation and navigation instruments. The "tragedy" of the book's title is that the old Kelvin became something of a crank, sticking "with blind stubbornness" to ideas about radioactivity, electromagnetism and the age of the earth in the face of contrary evidence accumulating at the turn of the century. But if Kelvin could come back today, Lindley says, he "would after being taken aback by the dizzying scope of modern theoretical physics decide that, after all, it was exactly what he had been trying to say."
Editors of Scientific American