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A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism


IN his deservedly celebrated treatise on “Sound,” the late Sir John Herschel felt himself justified in saying, “It is vain to conceal the melancholy truth. We are fast dropping behind. In Mathematics we have long since drawn the rein and given over a hopeless race.” Thanks to Herschel himself, and others, the reproach, if perhaps then just, did not long remain so. Even in pure mathematics, a subject which till lately has not been much attended to in Britain, except by a few scattered specialists, we stand at this moment at the very least on a par with the élite of the enormously disproportionate remainder of the world. The discoveries of Boole and Hamilton, of Cayley and Sylvester, extend into limitless regions of abstract thought, of which they are as yet the sole explorers. In applied mathematics no living men stand higher than Adams, Stokes, and W. Thomson. Any one of these names alone would assure our position in the face of the world as regards triumphs already von in the grandest struggles of the human intellect. But the men of the next generation—the successors of these long-proved knights—are beginning to win their spurs, and among them there is none of greater promise than Clerk-Maxwell. He has already, as the first holder of the new chair of Experimental Science in Cambridge, given the post a name which requires only the stamp of antiquity to raise it almost to the level of that of Newton. And among the numerous services he has done to science, even taking account of his exceedingly remarkable treatise on “Heat,” the present volumes must be regarded as pre-eminent.

A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism.

By James Clerk-Maxwell, Professor of Experimental Physics in the University of Cambridge. (Clarendon Press Series, Macmillan & Co., 1873.)

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A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism . Nature 7, 478–480 (1873).

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