COMPLETE EXTRACT WITH PLATE. FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST QUANTIFICATION AND DEMONSTRATION THAT ATMOSPHERIC GASES ARE INFRARED EMITTERS, in other words, that they emit heat. What Tyndall discovered is considered “the first accurate account of how the atmosphere functions” (Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, 35). Prior to Tyndall, many believed that something like what we now call the Greenhouse Effect existed, but in this paper Tyndall was the first to demonstrate, quantify, and thus prove it. The plate depicting Tyndall's equipment is also present.
John Tyndall was a prominent 19th century British physicist and he was also a mountaineer. “While climbing in the Alps, Tyndall studied glaciers. In the process, he became convinced that tens of thousands of years ago, all of northern Europe was covered by ice. For this theory to be true, Tyndall was forced to explain how the climate could warm dramatically enough to make so much ice disappear. Tyndall set up laboratory experiments to measure the amount of heat absorbed by various greenhouse gases and was the first scientist to measure the greenhouse effect” (Nuccitelli, Climatology Versus Pseudoscience), 3).
Toward this end “in 1852, Tyndall developed the first “ratio spectrophotometer” (a long gas-filled tube with a thermopile) and used it to test the heat absorption of gases (History of Physics: The Wenner Collection). The instrument used thermopile technology and its invention alone is considered seminal in the study of the history of the spectrographic study of the absorption of gases. Tyndall believed that he could explain heat within the Earth’s atmosphere by using his spectrophotometer to study the capacities of some atmospheric gases to absorb radiant heat (also known as infared absorption).
Tyndall’s first report on the absorption of radiant energy by gases was reported to the Royal Society in 1859. In that paper, Tyndall wrote: "Different gases are thus shown to intercept radiant heat in different degrees” (Tyndall, 1859). What he did not do, however, was provide evidence – specifically, quantitative results and the names of the individual gases he was investigating.
In the paper offered here, Tyndall presented his evidence. His quantitative analyses indicated that CO2, water vapor, and hydrocarbon gases, such as methane, were extremely efficient absorbers of radiant energy (this as compared with the oxygen and nitrogen that make up the bulk of the atmosphere). Tyndall showed that the emissive powers of the tested gases demonstrated a rank order that was the same as the absorptive powers of the given gases. Significantly, Tyndall further demonstrated that these gases re-emit heat.
“Tyndall was quick to appreciate the implications of his discovery: the selectively transparent gases, he declared, were largely responsible for determining the planet’s climate. He likened their impact to that of a dam built across a river: just as a dam ‘causes a local deepening of the stream, so our atmosphere, thrown as a barrier across the terrestrial rays, produces a local heightening of the temperature at the earth’s surface’” (Kolbert, 36; Tyndall, 1861). Tyndall concluded that water vapor absorbed the most radiant heat and is therefore the principal gas controlling air temperature (ibid).
ALSO INCLUDED IN THIS VOLUME: William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse: “On the Construction of Specula of Six-Feet Aperture; and a Selection from the Observations of Nebulae Made with The”, pp. 681-745. The original plans for Rosse’s reflecting telescope were lost to history and this paper represents the most detailed information on its construction. With this telescope he discovered the spiral nature of some of the galaxies, and published the first illustrations of spiral nebulae; for seventy years it remained the largest telescope in the world. Item #649
CONDITION & DETAILS: Complete extract with copperplate engraving. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London for the Year 1861, 151, 1862. London: Taylor and Francis, Printers to the Royal Society (11.5 x 9.25 inches; 288 x 231mm). pp. 1-36. The plate evidences foxing but all figures are still very clear (see scan). The text has a few lightly toned areas but is largely bright and clean; very good condition.