Cover image for Speculative truth : Henry Cavendish, natural philosophy, and the rise of modern theoretical science
Speculative truth : Henry Cavendish, natural philosophy, and the rise of modern theoretical science
McCormmach, Russell.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
viii, 258 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1620 Lexile.
Personal Subject:
Format :


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QC252 .M23 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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With a never-before published paper by Lord Henry Cavendish, as well as a biography on him, this book offers a fascinating discourse on the rise of scientific attitudes and ways of knowing. A pioneering British physicist in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Cavendish was widelyconsidered to be the first full-time scientist in the modern sense. Through the lens of this unique thinker and writer, this book is about the birth of modern science.

Author Notes

Russell McCormmach is Professor Emeritus of History of Science at the University of Oregon

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In the 1780s, pioneering British physicist Henry Cavendish proposed a mechanical theory of heat based on several key ideas that would take the physics community another 60 years to rediscover and accept through the elimination of the caloric-fluid model. Some suspect that he was the first full-time scientist, being independently wealthy yet living a simple life devoted to science thinking and experiments. In this fascinating glimpse into natural philosophy of the 18th century, 100 years after Newton's Principia, in the decades often considered a "dark age" of physics, we learn that physics was rife with ideas that laid the groundwork for the great physics discoveries of the 19th century. Historian McCormmach (emer., history of science, Univ. of Oregon) first sets the historical and conceptual stages for Cavendish's heat theory, then reveals its key ideas and some of Cavendish's clever arguments and, in the end, provides the whole manuscript as well as its rough drafts for readers' own perusal and judgment. The hundreds of references in the notes and the extensive bibliography are a researcher's paradise. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. F. Potter formerly, University of California, Irvine

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 3
Part 1 Natural Philosophy
1. Natural Philosophersp. 17
2. Philosophiesp. 23
3. Theoriesp. 49
Part 2 A Great Question
4. Historical Setting of Heat and Mechanicsp. 81
5. Henry Cavendish's Researchesp. 95
6. The Mechanical Theory of Heatp. 121
7. The Questionp. 131
Appendix Henry Cavendish's Manuscript on the Mechanical Theory of Heat
Editorial Notep. 151
Preliminary Sketch of the Manuscriptp. 153
Foul Copy of the Manuscriptp. 154
Revised Copy of the Manuscriptp. 176
Notesp. 195
Bibliographyp. 233
Indexp. 253