London: Harrison & Sons, 1864. 1st Edition. FIRST EDITION, FULL VOLUME OF THE ABSTRACT OF JAMES CLERK MAXWELL’S MOST FAMOUS PAPER DESCRIBING HIS THEORY OF THE ELECTROMECHANICAL FIELD. On October 27th, 1864, Maxwell submitted his abstract to the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London; on that same day, he also submitted the full paper to the Royal Society which he then went on to read before them on the 8th of December 1864. The paper was then published in the 1865 Philosophical Transactions. Maxwell’s influential abstract as well as his more extensive paper to follow demonstrated his theory of light as a form of electricity and introduced for the first time his critically important field equations for electromagnetism. Note that this is not the paragraph long ‘abstract’ of modern-day scientific journals and is instead five pages in length.
“Faraday had both derived electricity from magnetism and obtained magnetism from electricity; in 1845 he had also shown how electricity could act upon light… But Faraday was a conceptual, not a mathematical thinker… Maxwell, who may well be judged the greatest theoretical physicist of the nineteenth century, was happy to acknowledge his debt to Faraday; for what he did was to construct a mathematical theory of the field…” (Printing and the Mind of Man, 355).
Between 1861 and 1863, Maxwell’s experimentation had led him to “a link of a purely phenomenological kind between electromagnetic quantities and the velocity of light” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography, IX, 209). “The subject remained one of Maxwell’s chief preoccupations until 1864, when [in the abstract offered here and the full paper later published, he presented his] dynamical theory of the field (PMM).
In Maxwell’s theory, the consideration of ‘mechanical models’ representing the interplay and movement of electromagnetic forces on the field, which [he] had pursued in earlier papers, was abandoned: the developed field-theory, expressed in twenty equations, was purely and elegantly mathematical. It was one of its consequences that an electromagnetic disturbance, or wave, should travel through space with the speed of light, a circumstance impelling Maxwell to define light as an electromagnetic phenomenon” (Printing and the Mind of Man, 355).
The abstract offered here [and the paper to follow] “clinched matters. It provided a new theoretical framework for the subject, based on experiment and a few general dynamical principles, from which the propagation of electromagnetic waves through space followed without any special assumptions about molecular vortices or the forces between electric particles” (DSB 210).
“One scientific epoch ended and another began with James Clerk Maxwell” (Albert Einstein). Item #1177
CONDITION & DETAILS: London: Harrison & Sons. Complete. 4to. 8.75 x 5.5 inches. , ix, , 4. Stamp on title, first page of table of contents and verso; no exterior. In text illustrations throughout. Handsomely rebound in in half-calf over marbled paper boards; 5 gilt-ruled bands at the spine with compartments gilt-tooled and the title, etc. in gilt as well. Very tightly and solidly bound. Clean and bright inside and out. Fine condition.