John Tyndall (1820-93)


Life
b. 20 Aug. 1820, Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow; Associate of Huxley; his Belfast Address to the 1874 meeting of the British Association drove the last nail into the coffin of the anti-evolutionists; works incl. Heat Considered as a Mode of Motion, 1863; his explanation of the blue-ness of the sky known as the ‘Tyndall effect’; also wrote Mountaineering, and Hours of Exercise in the Alps, 1868;
 
issued a life of Faraday (Faraday as a Discoverer, 1868), and succeeded him to importance Royal posts; said to have originated ‘Home Rule is Rome Rule’ slogan; shocked local Presbyterians in an address on Darwin advocating materialism, Belfast Association, 1874; died accidentally of chloral poisoning [i.e., sleeping medicine]. CAB JMC DIB DIW OCEL

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Works
[Selected],
  • Glaciers of the Alps (1860);
  • Heat Considered as a Mode of Motion (1863);
  • On Sound (1867);
  • Faraday as a Discoverer (1868);
  • Fragments of Science for Unscientific People (1871);
  • Hours of Exercise in the Alps (1871);
  • Forms of Water in Clouds, Ice [... &c.] (1872);
  • Six Lectures on Light (1873);
  • Address delivered before the British Association Assembled in Belfast (1874);
  • Lessons in Electricity at the Royal Institute (1876).
Reprint
  • W. H. Brock, N. D. McMillan & R. C. Mullan, eds., John Tyndall, Essays on a Natural Philosopher (Dublin: RIA 1981).

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Criticism

  • Roy Johnston, ‘Godless Colleges and Non-Persons’, Causeway 1 (Autumn 1993), pp.36-38;
  • Matthew Brown, ‘Darwin at Church: John Tyndall’s Belfast Address’, in Evangelicals and Catholics in Nineteenth-century Ireland, ed. James H. Murphy (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2005) [Chap. 19].
See also ...

Frank Harris Contemporary Portraits (Edns. from 1915); John Wilson Foster, Recoveries: Neglected Episodes in Irish Cultural History, 1860-1912 (Dublin: UCD Press 2002); Jonathan Parry, Democracy and Religion: Glaadstone and the Liberal Party, 1867-75 (Cambridge UP [q.d.]) [remarks on his materialism];

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References
Bernard Share, ed., Far Green Fields: 1500 Years of Irish Travel Writing (Blackstaff 1992); extract from The Glaciers of the Alps, new ed. (London: Longmans Green 1896; first publ. 1860), gives extract.

Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904); selects addresses, incl ‘Scientific Limit of Imagination’; also extract from Hours of Exercise on the Alps.

Margaret Drabble, ed., Oxford Companion of English Literature (OUP: 1985):‘his famous address in Belfast on the relation of science and theology gave rise to acute controversy’. See also reference under Henry O’Brien.

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Notes
Gerard Manley Hopkins read Tyndall’s popularisation of Helmholtz’s work on optics and acoustics, using Tyndall’s speculations about light-waves, ‘scattered particles’, the azure of the sky, and the ‘pure unsifted solar light’, in his poem ‘The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air we Breathe’ [‘Yet such a sapphire-shot, / Charged, steeped sky will not / Stain light. Yea, mark you this: / it does no prejudice. / The glass-blue days are those / When every colour glows, / Each shape and shadow shows. / Blue be it: this blue heaven / The seven or seven times seven / Hued sunbeam will transmit / Perfect, not alter it. (See Jenny Uglow, review of Gillian Beer, Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter, in TLS, 13 Dec. 1995, p.6; and note that Uglow goes on to remark that Tyndall attributed his extraordinary understanding of relations in space to his childhood love of what he called ‘the involved and inverted sentences’ of Paradise Lost.’)

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