John Tyndall | Irish Physicist & Alpine Researcher (2024)

Irish physicist

verifiedCite

While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions.

Select Citation Style

Feedback

Thank you for your feedback

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Print

verifiedCite

While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions.

Select Citation Style

Feedback

Thank you for your feedback

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Written by

Ruth Barton Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Auckland, New Zealand. Author of Understanding Social Statistics: An Introduction to Descriptive Statistics.

Ruth Barton

Fact-checked by

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree. They write new content and verify and edit content received from contributors.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Last Updated: Article History

John Tyndall

See all media

Born:
August 2, 1820, Leighlinbridge, County Carlow, Ireland
Died:
December 4, 1893, Hindhead, Surrey, England (aged 73)
Subjects Of Study:
Tyndall effect
atmosphere
colour
sky
water vapor

See all related content →

John Tyndall (born August 2, 1820, Leighlinbridge, County Carlow, Ireland—died December 4, 1893, Hindhead, Surrey, England) was an Irish experimental physicist who, during his long residence in England, was an avid promoter of science in the Victorian era.

Tyndall was born into a poor Protestant Irish family. After a thorough basic education he worked as a surveyor in Ireland and England (1839–47). When his ambitions turned from engineering to science, Tyndall spent his savings on gaining a Ph.D. from the University of Marburg, Germany (1848–50), but then struggled to find employment.

Britannica QuizFaces of Science

In 1853 Tyndall was appointed professor of natural philosophy at the Royal Institution, London. There he became a friend of the much-admired physicist and chemist Michael Faraday, entertained and instructed fashionable audiences with brilliant lecture demonstrations (rivaling the biologist T.H. Huxley in his popular reputation), and pursued his research. An outstanding experimenter, particularly in atmospheric physics, Tyndall examined the transmission of both radiant heat and light through various gases and vapours. He discovered that water vapour and carbon dioxide absorb much more radiant heat than the gases of the atmosphere and argued the consequent importance of those gases in moderating Earth’s climate—that is, in the natural greenhouse effect. Tyndall also studied the diffusion of light by large molecules and dust, known as the Tyndall effect, and he performed experiments demonstrating that the sky’s blue colour results from the scattering of the Sun’s rays by molecules in the atmosphere.

Tyndall was passionate and sensitive, quick to feel personal slights and to defend underdogs. Physically tough, he was a daring mountaineer. His greatest fame came from his activities as an advocate and interpreter of science. Tyndall, in collaboration with his scientific friends in the small, private X Club, urged greater recognition of both the intellectual authority and practical benefits of science. He was accused of materialism and atheism after his presidential address at the 1874 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, when he claimed that cosmological theory belonged to science rather than theology and that matter had the power within itself to produce life. In the ensuing notoriety over this “Belfast Address,” Tyndall’s allusions to the limitations of science and to mysteries beyond human understanding were overlooked. Tyndall engaged in a number of other controversies—for example, over spontaneous generation, the efficacy of prayer, and Home Rule for Ireland.

John Tyndall | Irish Physicist & Alpine Researcher (2024)

References

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tuan Roob DDS

Last Updated:

Views: 6219

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (62 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tuan Roob DDS

Birthday: 1999-11-20

Address: Suite 592 642 Pfannerstill Island, South Keila, LA 74970-3076

Phone: +9617721773649

Job: Marketing Producer

Hobby: Skydiving, Flag Football, Knitting, Running, Lego building, Hunting, Juggling

Introduction: My name is Tuan Roob DDS, I am a friendly, good, energetic, faithful, fantastic, gentle, enchanting person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.