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Experimental Researches in Electricity... Twenty-third through Thirtieth Series

Michael Faraday


FARADAY, Michael. Experimental Researches in Electricity… From the Philosophical Transactions. Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth, Twenty-fifth, Twenty-sixth, and Twenty-seventh, Twenty-eighth, Twenty-ninth Series, Thirtieth Series. WITH: Bakerian Lecture. London: [R. and J.E. Taylor], 1850-57. Nine papers bound in two volumes. Quarto, modern marbled paper wrappers. $6800.

First appearances of nine papers from Faraday's important Experimental Researches in Electricity bound in two volumes, the 23rd through the 30th Series—laying the foundations for the origins of Field Theory—along with his 1857 Bakerian lecture, extracted from the journal Philosophical Transactions where they originally appeared, with all related engraved plates and illustrations.

The electrical research of Faraday, "one of the greatest physicists of the 19th century and one of the finest experimenters of all time… was the starting point for the revolutionary theories of Clerk Maxwell and later of Einstein… It laid the foundation of the modern electrical industry—electric light and power, telephony, wireless telegraphy, television, etc.—by providing for the production of continuous mechanical motion from an electrical source, and vice versa" (PMM 308). "Between 1832 and 1852 Faraday published 29 series of papers in the Philosophical Transactions under the title 'Experimental Researches in Electricity' [a 30th series was added in 1855]; it was through these papers that his major discoveries relating to electricity and magnetism were first published" (Norman 762).

These two volumes contain the final eight papers of the series, from 1850-55: the 23rd through the 30th. These papers are elemental in documenting Faraday's "decades-long quest for the holy grail of 19th-century physics: a comprehensive theory of electricity, magnetism, force and light" (Hirshfeld, xi). "During the latter half of the 1840s and early 1850s Faraday also explored experimentally diamagnetic and other phenomena. He showed that gases were also susceptible to magnetic force and that the optic axis of crystals was generally the same axis along which a crystal would align itself in the field. This work attracted much attention and the phenomena were studied by Tyndall, Julius Plücker, Wilhelm Eduard Weber, and others… For ten years from 1849 he spent much experimental effort trying, unsuccessfully, to bring gravity into his scheme of forces. This illustrates his long-standing conviction, expressed explicitly, that all forces were interconvertible" (ODNB). "Whatever the cause of magnetism, the manifestation of magnetic force took place in the medium surrounding the magnet. This manifestation was the magnetic field and the energy of the magnetic system was in the field, not in the magnet. By extension, the same could be said (and was so said by Faraday) of electrical and gravitational systems. This is the fundamental axiom of classic field theory. By the mid-1850s Faraday had gone as far as he could go. He had provided a new perspective for those who would look on all manifestations of force in the phenomenal world. His description of this perspective was fuzzy and imprecise but capable of clarification and precision if taken up by someone who could share Faraday's vision. Such a man was James Clerk Maxwell, who, in the 1850s and 1860s, built field theory on the foundations Faraday had laid" (DSB).

Also included here is Faraday's 1857 Bakerian lecture on the relations of gold and other metals to light. "In 1856 Faraday started his last major research project. Following George Gabriel Stokes's work on fluorescence in the early 1850s, which showed that a ray of light could change its wavelength after passing through a solution of sulphate of quinine, Faraday tried to realize this change directly. To achieve this he passed light through beaten gold and later colloidal solutions of gold. The wavelength of light was larger than the size of the gold particles, and yet they still affected the light. He sought to explain this phenomenon but, as with his work on gravity, came to no firm conclusions" (ODNB). These papers were then collected in 1855 and published as Volume III of Faraday's book-form publication of his work, which also bore the title Experimental Researches in Electricity; Volume I was published in 1839 and Volume II in 1844. With three engraved plates, one folding, as issued, as well as in-text illustrations. See Norman 760.

Fine condition.

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