Thesis ID: CBB411319578

What Theories Are Made Of: How Industry and Culture Shaped Maxwell's Theories of Electromagnetism (2021)


James Clerk Maxwell's theories of electromagnetism are uniquely Victorian products. Maxwell and his physics have traditionally been viewed as aloof and disinterested, dating to the mid-to-late-19th century, but not party to the cultural, industrial, political, economic, and environmental turmoil of the era. This dissertation examines often ignored corners of Maxwell's electromagnetic theories and those of his successors to demonstrate that they were shaped by the technologies of their time. These technologies, steam engine governors, capacitors, and undersea telegraph cables are each, in their own way, responsible for the varying forms taken by Maxwellian electromagnetic theory. Each of these technologies also has its own history. These histories connect these technologies and thus Maxwellian theory to the newly emerging concept of efficiency, as well as the colonialism, economics, religion, and ecology of the British Empire. Governors, capacitors, and submarine telegraph cables serve as a historiographical bridge, allowing for the exploration of how empire-wide forces shaped the minutiae of Maxwellian electromagnetic theory.

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Authors & Contributors
Bokulich, Alisa
Bordoni, Stefano
D'Agostino, Salvatore
Darrigol, Olivier
Forbes, Nancy
Goldstein, Bernard R.
Physics in Perspective
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Annalen der Physik
British Journal for the History of Science
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Pavia University Press
Cambridge University Press
Firenze University Press
Icon Books
Prometheus Books
University of California, Los Angeles
Electricity; magnetism
Mathematics and its relationship to science
Science education and teaching
Methodology of science; scientific method
Maxwell, James Clerk
Faraday, Michael
Lorentz, Hendrik Antoon
Boole, George
Einstein, Albert
Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
Great Britain
Tuscany (Italy)

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