On Stresses in Rarified Gases...

James Clerk MAXWELL

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"ONE SCIENTIFIC EPOCH ENDED AND ANOTHER BEGAN WITH JAMES CLERK MAXWELL" (EINSTEIN): FIRST EDITION OF MAXWELL'S IMPORTANT FINAL PAPER ON HIS KINETIC THEORY OF GASES, PUBLISHED THE YEAR OF HIS DEATH IN PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS

MAXWELL, J[ames] Clerk. On Stresses in Rarified Gases arising from Inequalities of Temperature. IN: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. For the Year MDCCCLXXIX. Vol. 170.—Part I. London: Harrison and Sons… Printers in Ordinary to Her Majesty, 1879. Tall thick quarto, original pale green wrappers, uncut and unopened; (Maxwell) pp. 231-256. $2800.

First edition of Maxwell's major third and final paper on his kinetic theory of gases—it “created the science of rarefied gas dynamics” (DSB)—published the year of his death, containing his important 1879 notes, the complete volume of Philosophical Transactions with 35 plates and diagrams (one color, one folding), uncut and unopened in original wrappers.

"One scientific epoch ended and another began with James Clerk Maxwell" (Einstein). For his discovery of the laws of electrodynamics and "his work on the dynamics of gases, Maxwell most clearly prefigures 20th-century physics… it would be difficult to overestimate his influence" (Simmons, Scientific 100, 64-5). Published the year of his death, On Stresses in Rarified Gases "created the science of rarefied gas dynamics" (DSB). Read before the Royal Society on April 11, 1878 and published in Philosophical Transactions for 1879 with his 1879 notes, it "embodied the results of Maxwell's last investigations in the kinetics of gases. In this paper Maxwell showed that when the inequalities of temperature exist in a gas the pressure at a point is not generally the same in all directions, but the maximum and minimum pressures differed by an amount depending on the rate of change of the increase of temperature per unit length in the direction in which this rate is greatest" (Campbell, Life, 573).

On Stresses in Rarified Gases, Maxwell's influential third and final paper on his theory of gases, also provided the theory with a mathematical basis and became a major influence on "the branch of physics dealing with the upper atmosphere of the Earth and signaling the beginnings of space research" (Keithley, Story of Electrical and Magnetic Measurements, 180). "Maxwell is generally considered to be the greatest theoretical physicist in the whole interval between Newton and Einstein" (Hart, The 100, 122). As a fellow of the Royal Society he additionally "refereed a wide range of papers for Philosophical Transactions, a task which continued unabated in the 1870s; he often wrote substantive essays offering significant commentary" (ODNB). This complete volume notably contains three papers refereed by Maxwell: Shuster's "On the Spectra of Metalloids—Spectrum of Oxygen"; Glazebrook's "An Experimental Determination of the Values of the Velocities of Normal Propagation of Plane Waves…" and Gordon's "Measurements of Electrical Constants.—No. II." Also featured are two major papers by William Crookes, whose own experiments had prompted Maxwell's work on the kinetic theory of gases. Additionally containing papers by G.H. Darwin, Sir William Thomson, William Spottiswoode and J. Fletcher Mouton, W.N. Hartley and A.K. Huntington, J.H. Hannay, and W.D. Niven. As issued with 23 plates (one color; one folding) and full-page diagrams at rear numbered 1, 14-35; plates 2-13 integral to Thomson's paper. Erratum for Volume 169, 1878, tipped in at title page. Issued as an offprint the same year, no priority established.

Interior very fresh, original wrappers with minor expert restoration at spine and edges not affecting print. A near-fine copy of this landmark scientific work.

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