The Electrical Researches of the Honourable Henry Cavendish... Edited from the Original Manuscripts by J. Clerk Maxwell(74 views)
Description: FIRST EDITION, edited and with an introduction by James Clerk Maxwell. "In 1874, the Duke [of Devonshire] passed [Maxwell] a mass of unpublished accounts of electrical experiments done by his great uncle Henry Cavendish between 1771 and 1781, with a suggestion that he consider editing them for publication... After a scan through the papers he was captivated by the elegance, originality and power of Cavendish's work. Here were some of the finest experiments ever performed; they included important discoveries which had since been attributed to others. To Maxwell, scientific facts were incomplete without the knowledge of how they came to be discovered. The process of discovery held as much interest as the result. Scientific history was at least as important as political history and needed to be complete. He decided to undertake the huge task of editing the papers himself." Cavendish sometimes "published his findings but more often did not... He had published almost none of his electrical work and the great bulk of it came to Maxwell in the form of manuscripts about 100 years old. Cavendish's electrical experiments were a revelation. Among a series of outstanding results, he had demonstrated the inverse square law of force between electric charges more effectively than Coulomb, after whom the law was named, and he had discovered Ohm's law 50 years before Ohm... "The account of Henry Cavendish's work was fed in sections to the publishers. Maxwell went to immense trouble to write an interesting and accurate narrative... The book was eventually published in 1879, a few weeks before Maxwell's death." (Basil Mahon, The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell). Cambridge: University Press, 1879. Octavo, original cloth. Early bookplate ("William Wilson Cooke"). Foxing to endpapers, a few pages with small marginal tears (likely paper flaws); trivial wear to edges of binding. A beautiful copy in original cloth.
Artist or Maker: Cavendish, Henry; Maxwell, James Clerk