"MAXWELL'S SINGLE GREATEST PAPER": 1867 FIRST APPEARANCE OF MAXWELL'S LANDMARK "ON THE DYNAMICAL THEORY OF GASES," WITH TWO OTHER IMPORTANT PAPERS
MAXWELL, James Clerk. Three Scientific Papers: On the Dynamical Theory of Gases. BOUND WITH: On the Theory of Compound Colors. BOUND WITH: On the Viscosity or Internal Friction of Air and Other Gases. London: Taylor and Francis, 1867, 1860, 1866. Quarto, modern marbled paper wrappers. Housed in a custom clamshell box.
First appearance of three of Maxwell's scientific papers extracted from Philosophical Transactions where they originally appeared, containing ideas and equations that would become essential for modern physics, bound together in one volume with title pages, contents pages, and three engraved plates.
"James Clerk Maxwell most clearly prefigures 20th-century physics. His research led directly to the technology associated with radio and television, and some of his work prefigures cybernetics. Maxwell is frequently ranked alongside Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, and it would be difficult to overestimate his influence" (Simmons, The Scientific 100, 64). The three papers collected here include "Maxwell's greatest single paper" (DSB): "On the Dynamical Theory of Gases," as well as two other major papers, "On the Theory of Compound Colors," and "On the Viscosity or Internal Friction of Air and Other Gases."
"The measurements of Gaseous viscosity at different pressures and temperatures made by Maxwell and his wife in 1865 were their most useful contribution to experimental physics. 'On the Dynamical Theory of Gases,' which followed, was Maxwell's greatest single paper" (DSB). "He found that gas viscosity was a linear function of the absolute temperature, and he suggested, in his major paper 'On the Dynamical Theory of Gases' of 1867 (Niven, 2.26-78), that gas molecules should be considered as centers of force subject to an inverse fifth power law of repulsion, a result in agreement with this experimental finding. He presented a new derivation of the distribution law, demonstrating that the velocity distribution would maintain a state of equilibrium unchanged by collisions. His theory of gases was 'dynamical' or 'kinetic', as he later termed it (Scientific Letters and Papers, 2.654), in that he supposed particles in motion" (ODNB).
"In colorimetry Maxwell had established quantitative techniques and a unified theory, but he sought to make more accurate measurements, devising a series of color boxes in which spectral red, green, and blue were mixed in varying proportions and directly compared with white light. These researches included a study of the variations of color sensitivity across the retina, the investigation of the yellow spot on the retina, and the projection of the first trichromatic color photograph in a lecture at the Royal Institution, London, in May 1861. This work led to the award of the Royal Society's Rumford medal in 1860, following the submission of his paper 'On the theory of compound colors' [collected here] to the Philosophical Transactions and his appointment to read the paper as the society's Bakerian lecturer" (ODNB). With title pages and tables of contents of the three volumes of Philosophical Transactions from which these papers were extracted, along with the three engraved plates related to the Maxwell papers.