Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

THE ASCENT OF JOHN TYNDALL: Victorian Scientist, Mountaineer and Public Intellectual

  • Written by  Jules Stewart
  • Published in Books
THE ASCENT OF JOHN TYNDALL: Victorian Scientist, Mountaineer and Public Intellectual
11 Apr
2018
by Roland Jackson • Oxford University Press • £25 (hardback)

Social mobility is not a term commonly associated with Victorian society. The life of physicist and mountaineer John Tyndall stands as an extraordinary exception. The son of a local police constable in rural Ireland, Tyndall rose to become a distinguished man of science and mountaineering, who kept company with eminences like Lord Tennyson, Thomas Carlyle and Louis Pasteur. Roland Jackson brings a unique set of credentials to his chronicle of Tyndall’s life. The author is himself an accomplished mountaineer, who has served as Head of London’s Science Museum.

By his 40th year, Tyndall had delivered a lecture to the Royal Society that set the foundation for our understanding of the greenhouse effect and climate change. He had also made the first ascent of Switzerland’s Weisshorn.

Though regarded primarily as an eminent physicist of mid-Victorian Britain, Tyndall was a man of many contrasts: a hybrid, as the author states, of the inductive and empirical world view of the British, with the Romanticism and idealism of the Germans. His life was woven together by many strands, from scientific discovery and public lectures at home and in the US, to poetry and the development of mountaineering.

Tyndall suffered an ignominious death when his wife Louisa accidentally administered an overdose of chloral hydrate, which he was taking to treat his insomnia. Sadly, the memory of Tyndall’s achievements faded soon after his demise. Unlike in the case of Charles Darwin, for instance, no posthumous documents were to emerge telling of his remarkable life and discoveries. Jackson also notes that Tyndall was essentially an experimentalist, while those who make the big theoretical advances tend to be most remembered.

The third reason is that he had the misfortune to die on the cusp of revolutionary discoveries in physics, like X-rays and quantum theory. It was not until 1945, more than half a century after his death, that a semi-authorised biography of Tyndall was published. Now Jackson has authoritatively redressed this injustice.

Click here to purchase The Ascent of John Tyndall from Amazon

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Films

A brutal, hard-hitting coming-of-age tale that doesn’t hold its punches

Books

by Dan Richards • Canongate • £19.99 (paperback)

Books

by Jeremy Purseglove • Profile Books • £14.99 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Peter Hessler • Profile Books • £25 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard • Little, Brown • £20 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Robert Macfarlane • Hamish Hamilton • £20 (hardback/eBook)

Exhibitions

An exhibition at the V&A brings together innovations from across…

Books

Dead in the Water edited by Bruce Shoemakers and William…

Films

A brutally realistic film about a cruel and pointless confrontation

Books

by Mike Berners-Lee • Cambridge University Press • £9.99 (paperback)

Films

In our attempt to control the natural world, humans have…

Books

by Sudipta Sen • Yale University Press • £20 (hardback)

Books

by Jerry Brotton • Reaktion Books • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Colin Everard • IB Tauris • £30 (hardback)

Books

by Pete Brown • Particular Books • £16.99 (hardback)

Books

by Paul Dobraszczyk • Reaktion Books • £18 (hardback)

Books

by Parag Khanna • Weidenfeld & Nicolson • £20 (hardback)

Films

It makes you angry - extremely. It makes you sad…

Books

by Rory O’Grady • The Conrad Press • £18.99 (hardback)