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5.0 out of 5 stars The story of an eminent scientist, July 5, 2010
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This review is from: Degrees Kelvin: A Tale of Genius, Invention, and Tragedy (Paperback)
As an engineer myself, I've developed something of a hobby of learning about the people behind the names given to all these equations I use on a daily basis. Kelvin is one of said names, though throughout most of his life he went by the name William Thomson. In "Degrees Kelvin," the author, David Lindley, tells the story of this 19th-century British scientist from his undergrad days at Cambridge through his death at the end of 1907. I think most scientists and engineers would enjoy reading this book and learning about one of the men responsible for the all-important laws of thermodynamics. I think Lindley did a remarkable job of presenting the man; if it were possible I would surely like to meet the Lord Kelvin. He seems like a friendly and amazingly intelligent man that I'm sure I could talk with for hours.

In addition to the work on thermo, Thomson was instrumental in getting the transatlantic telegraph cable working, invented the forerunner to inkjet printers, a compass, and several other pieces of science that don't necessarily bear the name Kelvin. But this biography isn't just a story of the science; Lindley tells a captivating story and brings the man to life based on Thomson's correspondence, various diaries, and newspapers. We learn about his family and his friendships with G.G. Stokes, P.G. Tait, and H.L.F. von Helmholtz, among others. Something that came as a surpise to me was the rivalries (read: borderline soap-opera drama) concerning just who was responsible for creating the laws of thermodynamics, the fighting over how to lay the cable, and Kelvin's stubbornness in his later years concerning Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism and refusual to believe in the modern developments of science such as radiation. Nevertheless, Thomson was always interested in using his math and science skills to solve practical problems, which is something that strikes close to home for me as an engineer. Thanks to this book, I now have a much deeper respect for, and understanding of, William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin of Largs.
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