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The Forgotten Genius of Oliver Heaviside by Basil Mahon

The Forgotten Genius of Oliver Heaviside

The Forgotten Genius of Oliver Heaviside by Basil Mahon
Sep 12, 2017 | 288 Pages
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    Sep 12, 2017 | 288 Pages

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    Sep 12, 2017 | 288 Pages

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“The best scientific biography I have read in the last few years. . . . But there is much more in this book than just a biography. The whole history of the development of electricity, of transmission and telephone lines, and of the numerous people who contributed to their development is here. . . . The life story of this strange man, and of his important contributions to science and mathematics, is told in a page-turning narrative. . . . This is essential reading for anyone who wishes to know how electrical science acquired its modern form.”

—Simon Altmann, author of Rotations, Quaternions, and Double Groups

“Mahon deftly captures the quirky brilliance of one of Victorian Britain’s most remarkable scientific minds.”
—Bruce Hunt, associate professor, History Department, University of Texas

“If you’re into mathematics, physics, or engineering, read this book. If you wonder how technology emerges and exponentiates, read this book. If you enjoy stories about people who strive against all odds to create something wonderful, read this book!
Our modern methods and understanding of the behavior of electrical circuitry first coalesced in the mind of Oliver Heaviside, a self-educated telegraph operator who made major electrical innovations in the 1870s. His achievements include reverse engineering and reframing Maxwell’s equations to make them more accessible, thereby setting the stage for much of twentieth-century physics and engineering. Along the way, he also developed vector analysis and operational calculus to encode and manipulate what he envisioned.
Although virtually unknown today, Heaviside’s impact on our world has been enormous. Basil Mahon’s book provides keen insights into this dramatic saga. Through his lasting contributions to science and engineering, Oliver Heaviside lives on, all around us, as you’ll understand by reading this book.”
—Lynn Conway, Professor Emerita of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan

“It is very rare for persons outside the walls of academia to make significant contributions to theoretical physics. The patent clerk Albert Einstein did so, and so did the now almost forgotten Oliver Heaviside. Basil Mahon has written a most perceptive account of Heaviside’s life in middle-class Victorian England and how Heaviside, a curious youth with little education and few prospects, in time came to be on collegial terms with the great physicists of the time—Maxwell, Thomson, Fitzgerald, and Hertz, to name a few—who recognized the genius of this peculiar eccentric. Along the way, we learn about the heroic early years of underwater telegraphy and telephony, the era’s communication revolutions, and how early, flawed views on electricity gradually gave way to Maxwell’s brilliant insight and to his famous equations of electromagnetism—which Heaviside cast into the lucid format in which physicists now know them. Mahon’s meticulously annotated tribute to Heaviside fills an intriguing nook in the history of nineteenth-century science and engineering.”

—Josef Eisinger, Professor Emeritus at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, author of Einstein on the Road, and translator of Einstein at Home

“A very readable and well-researched book that delves into the life and discoveries of Oliver Heaviside. Heaviside is not one of the better-known early scientists, but . . . . his contributions were important enough for him to be nominated for the Nobel Prize. The book would be an excellent addition to anyone’s library.”
—Barry Parker, author of The Physics of War


“[Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field is] just the best book of its kind I have ever read, and I just hugely enjoyed it. Couldn’t put it down. [Their discovery] was a fabulous human achievement.” –Charlie Munger, Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”

“Compelling. …A lively account of the men and their times and a brilliant exposition of the scientific circumstances and significance of their work.”
Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“If it is possible for a book about the electromagnetic field to be a “page turner,” then this book is one! …. Makes the thinking of these great scientists accessible to all. I highly recommend this book for anyone with a passion for science.” –NSTA Recommends

“The life and science of these two giants of nineteenth-century physics is beautifully documented and narrated in this riveting book.” –Eric D’Hoker, Distinguished Professor of Physics, UCLA; past president, Aspen Center for Physics

“Perhaps the names of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell aren’t as well known as Newton or Einstein, but they should be. The book traces their amazing collaboration…. But as equally fascinating as the tale of the discovery is that of the men behind it…. A fascinating true tale of the lives of two essential men of physics!” —AstroGuyz

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