[Marcet, Jane]

Conversations on Natural Philosophy

  • Second edition of this popular work on physics by the important science populariser Jane Marcet (1769-1858). Among the subjects covered are the fundamental physical laws of gravity and motion, including simple machines such as pulleys and screws, and the motions of the moon and planets; the properties of liquids and gases and their transitions; and light, including the workings of the human eye and optical instruments.

    Marcet became interested in science after marrying her husband Alexander, a physician and Fellow of the Royal Society with a large circle of literary and scientific acquaintances. Marcet’s first book, Conversations on Chemistry (1809), was a resounding success, particularly with women who had begun to flock to the lectures delivered by Sir Humphrey Davy at the Royal Institution. At first Marcet had found these lectures difficult to follow because of the speed with which they were presented, but she found that discussing the material with friends made it easier to understand going forward.

    “Since she had found discussion a useful tool in understanding chemistry, she presumed that others would respond in the same way and therefore presented her subject in the form of conversations... The conversation approach was so successful that Marcet continued it in numerous books” (Ogilvie, Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science p. 842).

    Among the many people who benefited from her work was Michael Farday (1791-1867), who read Conversations on Chemistry as an apprentice bookbinder with little formal education. “The Conversations introduced him to electrochemistry... he recognized that the electrical forces that had already intrigued him were of fundamental importance as regulators of chemical change” (Ogilvie). The present volume, Conversation on Natural Philosophy, was so popular that it went through four editions in as many years.

  • ...in which the Elements of that Science are Familiarly Explained, and Adapted to the Comprehension of Young Pupils. Illustrated with Plates. By the Author of Conversations on Political Economy, and Conversations on Chemistry. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1820.

    Octavo (179 x 100 mm). Contemporary green half calf, spine gilt in compartments, red morocco label, marbled sides, floral roll to boards. 23 engraved plates. Small contemporary bookplate. Bindings tanned and a little scuffed and marked, offsetting and spotting to contents, leaves trimmed closely but not affecting text. A very good copy.

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