John Tyndall, 1820-1893


Biographical note

Scientific writer, born at Leighlin Bridge, County Carlow, was in early life employed in the ordnance survey and as a railway engineer. He was next teacher of mathematics and surveying at Queenwood College, Hampshire, after which he went to Marburg to study science, and while there became joint author of a memoir On the Magneto-optic Properties of Crystals (1850). After being at Berlin he returned in 1851 to Queenwood, and in 1853 was appointed Prof. of Natural Philosophy in the Royal Institution, which in 1867 he succeeded Faraday as Superintendent. With Huxley he made investigations into the Alpine glaciers. Thereafter he did much original work on heat, sound, and light. In addition to his discoveries Tyndall was one of the greatest popularisers of science. His style, remarkable for lucidity and elegance, enabled him to expound such subjects with the minimum of technical terminology.

Among his works are The Glaciers of the Alps (1860), Mountaineering (1861), Fragments of Science, two vols. (1871), including his address to the British Association at Belfast, which raised a storm of controversy and protest in various quarters, Hours of Exercise on the Alps, etc.

Tyndall died from an overdose of chloral accidentally administered by his wife.

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]


  • The Glaciers of the Alps [1860]
  • Heat as a Mode of Motion [1863; revised later editions]
  • On Radiation: One Lecture [1865]
  • Sound: A Course of Eight Lectures [1867; revised later editions]
  • Faraday as a Discoverer [1868]
  • Natural Philosophy in Easy Lessons [1869]
  • Three Scientific Addresses by Prof. John Tyndall [1870]
  • Notes of a Course of Nine Lectures on Light [1870]
  • Notes of a Course of Seven Lectures on Electrical Phenomena and Theories [1870]
  • Researches on Diamagnetism and Magne-crystallic Action [1870] (a compilation of 1850s research reports)
  • Hours of Exercise in the Alps [1871]
  • Fragments of Science: A Series of Detached Essays, Lectures, and Reviews [1871; expanded later editions]
  • The Forms of Water in Clouds and Rivers, Ice and Glaciers [1872]
  • Contributions to Molecular Physics in the Domain of Radiant Heat [1872] (a compilation of 1860s research reports)
  • Six Lectures on Light [1873]
  • Lessons in Electricity at the Royal Institution [1876]
  • Essays on the Floating-matter of the Air in relation to Putrefaction and Infection [1881]
  • New Fragments [1892]
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