Tyndall, John | Contributions to Molecular Physics in the Domain of Radiant Heat

  • First collected edition, presentation copy inscribed in the year of publication by the author on the half title, “Herbert Spencer Esq, from his friend, the Author June 1872”. The recipient was the biologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), best known for coining the phrase “survival of the fittest” based on Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

    The author, physicist John Tyndall (1820-1893) was one of the first scientists to show that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere controls the Earth’s climate (Eunice Foote has only recently been recognised as the first to publish a paper explaining the greenhouse effect).

    During the 1820s French physicist Joseph Fourier showed that the atmosphere retained heat, but was unable to determine the mechanism by which this occurred. “Tyndall pondered how the atmosphere might control the earth’s temperature, but he was stymied by the opinion, held by most scientists at the time, that all gases are transparent to infrared radiation. In 1859 he decided to check this out in his laboratory. He confirmed that the main gases in the atmosphere, oxygen and nitrogen, are indeed transparent. he was ready to quit when he thought to try coal gas. This gas, produced by heating coal and used for lighting, was piped into his laboratory. He found that for heat rays, the gas was as opaque as a plank of wood. Thus the industrial Revolution, intruding into Tyndall’s laboratory in the form of a gas jet, declared its significance for the planet’s heat balance. Tyndall went on to try other gases, an he found that the gas CO2 was likewise opaque — what we would now call a ‘greenhouse’ gas” (Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming, p. 3). Tyndall went on to discover, as Foote also had, that water vapour was also an important greenhouse gas, calling it “a blanket more necessary to the vegetable life of England than clothing is to man” and pondering on its role in creating the ice ages.

    The present volume collects seventeen different writings by Tyndall on aspects of atmospheric science, including the key papers “On the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours”, “On the Relation of Radiant Heat to Aqueous Vapour”, “On Radiation through the Earth’s Atmosphere” and “Further Researches on the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gaseous Matter”, as well as historic remarks and further analysis.

  • ...A Series of Memoirs Published in the 'Philosophical Transactions' and 'Philosophical Magazine,' with Additions. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1872.

    Octavo. Original red cloth, rebacked with the original spine laid down, titles to spine gilt. 2 page ad for other works by Tyndall and 20 page publisher’s ads dated March 1872 preceding the index, tipped-in errata slip. 2 folding plates, steel engravings within the text. Ink stamp of Herbert Spencer to the title. Professionally rebacked as noted with the original spine laid down, 2 cm of cloth from the head of the spine panel lacking but not affecting the title, small repairs to corners and edges of boards, tissue repairs to the gutter of the front free endpaper and half title, contents toned and a little brittle. Very good condition.