Cover image for Tides : a scientific history
Tides : a scientific history
Cartwright, David Edgar, 1926-
Publication Information:
New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 292 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GC301.2 .C37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This book, first published in 1998, provides a history of the study of the tides over two millennia, from the primitive ideas of the Ancient Greeks to present sophisticated space-age techniques. Tidal physics has puzzled some of the world's greatest scientists and mathematicians: amongst many others, Galileo, Descartes, Bacon, Kepler, Newton, Bernoulli, Euler, Laplace, Young, Whewell, Airy, Kelvin, G. Darwin, H. Lamb, have all contributed to our understanding of tides. The volume is amply illustrated with diagrams from historical scientific papers, photographs of artefacts, and portraits of some of the subject's leading protagonists. The history of the tides is in part the history of a broad area of science and the subject provides insight into the progress of science as a whole: this book will therefore appeal to all those interested in how scientific ideas develop. It will particularly interest specialists in oceanography, hydrography, geophysics, geodesy, astronomy and navigation.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Cartwright's book is a comprehensive history of humankind's attempts to understand the nature and periodicity of the ocean tides, beginning with the ancient Greeks and culminating with today's sophisticated satellite data. Some of the text is quite mathematically sophisticated but, as the author indicates, his discussion is clear even if the reader skips over the numerous equations included. He covers tidal studies during the monastic period or Dark Ages, the Renaissance, Newton and the researchers his work inspired, the Victorian era, and the 19th-century's rapid expansion of knowledge brought about by new instrumentation as well as 20th-century observation from space. Extensive notes and references are included at the end of each chapter, and an author index allows the reader to quickly locate any mention of a particular worker in the body of the text. Several drawings, graphs, and reproductions supplement the discussion. There are very few books available on the history of tidal phenomena, and this will prove an extremely valuable addition to university and college libraries with sections on the history of science, oceanography, and planetary science. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. C. G. Wood Eastern Maine Technical College

Table of Contents

1 Introduction - the overall pattern of enquiry
2 Early ideas and observations
3 What moon maketh a full sea?
4 Towards Newton
5 Newton and the Prize Essayists - the 'Equilibrium' theory
6 Measurements and empirical studies, 1650-1825
7 Laplace and the 19th century hydrodynamics
8 Local analysis and prediction in the 19th century
9 Towards a map of cotidal lines
10 Tides of the Geosphere - the birth of Geophysics
11 Tidal researches between the World Wars
12 1950-1980 - The impact of automatic computers
13 The impact of instrument technology, 1960-1991
14 The impact of satellite geodesy, 1970-1995
15 Recent advances in miscellaneous topics, and final retrospect