Tyndall, Professor John

Male 1820 - 1893  (73 years)


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  • Name Tyndall, John 
    Prefix Professor 
    Born 2 Aug 1820  Leighlin Bridge County Carlow Ireland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Occupation Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Rural Institution of GB 
    Died 4 Dec 1893  Farnham Surrey England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I24939  GrangerMusgrave
    Last Modified 14 Apr 2010 

    Family Hamilton, Louisa Charlotte,   b. Jul 1845, St. George Hanover Sq London England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 18 Aug 1940  (Age ~ 95 years) 
    Married 29 Feb 1876  Westminster Abbey London England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 14 Apr 2010 
    Family ID F16637  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
    John Tyndall
    John Tyndall

  • Notes 
    • John Tyndall was born the son of John Tyndall a shoemaker in Leighton Bridge County Carlow Ireland in 1820. He attended the National School in Carlow until the age of 19. He supplemented his schooling by reading and thus became fascinated by science. He began work as a draftsman and civil engineer in the Irish Ordnance Survey but was later transferred to the English division in Preston Lancashire in 1842. He was strongly against political principles in England and was transferred back to Ireland after protesting against them. He later returned to England as a surveyor and engineer during the railway development of 1844-1845. He became acquainted with George Edmondson of Queenwood College in Hampshire in 1847 and began teaching mathematics and drawing there. At Queenwood College Tyndall was introduced to German science through his involvement with Thomas Archer Hirst and Edward Frankland. In 1848 he attended the University of Marburg in Germany and studied science under Bunsen gaining his PhD in 1850. He remained at Marburg and worked in the laboratory on diamagnetism with Karl Herrmann Knoblauch. Together they published a paper on their work in Philosophical Magazine in 1850-1851. Like many natural philosophers Tyndall had to write lecture and examine in order to earn a living and gain a name as a first-rate natural philosopher. Nevertheless in 1852 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society and in 1853 he became Professor of Natural Philosophy at the Royal Institution of Great Britain (RI). Under Michael Faraday's guidance he became a very good lecturer giving over 300 lectures at the RI alone. He succeeded Faraday as Superintendent of the RI in 1867 which he held until 1887. He became Scientific Adviser to Trinity House in 1865 and to the Board of Trade in c1867. Tyndall undertook various forms of research in his time from electromagnetism to thermodynamics to bacteriology. From 1851 to 1856 he studied the compression on crystalline substances; 1854-1856 he looked at Penrhyn slate and investigated the Penrhyn quarries; 1856-1859 he studied glacial movements; 1860-1870 he undertook work on the effects of solar and heat radiation on atmospheric gases; 1870-1876 he considered the scattering of light particles and the blue colour of the sky as well as spontaneous generation and defending Pasteur in his work. John Tyndall is known for verifying the high absorptive and radiative power of aqueous vapour; measuring atmosphere and the transmission of heat by gases and liquids; explaining the selective influence of the atmosphere on sounds and establishing the principle of `discontinuous heating' otherwise known as `Tyndallisation' as a sterilizing technique. His work on glacial movement was inconclusive. Tyndall was kept busy outside of the laboratory through other activities such as being the Examiner for the Royal Military College 1855-1857; Professor of Physics at the Royal School of Mines 1859-1968; lecturer at Eton College 1856 and at the London Institution 1856-1859. He regularly wrote articles for the Saturday Review from 1859 and became Scientific Adviser to The Reader 1863-1867. In 1869 he inaugurated the journal Nature and pushed for public knowledge and access to science. In 1866-1867 he was on the British Association Committee for teaching science. He published many papers through the Royal Society as well as books such as Glaciers of the Alps in 1860 and Heat Considered as a Mode of Motion in 1863. He received the Rumford Medal from the Royal Society in1869. In 1874 he gave a presidential address to the British Association in Belfast which caused a great deal of controversy since he questioned theistic explanations for natural phenomena. In 1876 he married Louisa Charlotte Hamilton. During the 1870s and 1880s Tyndall was often ill. He resigned from his position as Scientific Advisor to Trinity House and the Board of Trade in 1884 over Joseph Chamberlain's policy for lighthouses. He rejected Gladstone's policies for home rule in Ireland in 1885 and by 1886 he became so ill that he was eventually bedridden. He retired from the RI in 1887 and after an accidental overdose of medication by his wife Louisa he died in 1893.


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