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The Penultimate CuriosityHow Science Swims in the Slipstream of Ultimate Questions$
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Roger Wagner and Andrew Briggs

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198747956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198747956.001.0001

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The Unity of Nature

The Unity of Nature

(p.391) Chapter Forty-Eight The Unity of Nature
The Penultimate Curiosity

Roger Wagner

Andrew Briggs

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes James Clerk Maxwell’s work on electricity and magnetism, which was influenced by Michael Faraday’s research on electricity. Maxwell attempted ‘to state the mathematical methods by which he believed that electrical phenomena can best be comprehended and reduced to calculation’. He did so by developing a remarkable analogy between electric and magnetic force, and the flow of an imaginary weightless and incompressible fluid. Maxwell derived mathematical formulae for the action of Faraday’s ‘lines of force’, which merged them into a single ‘flux’ across what he described as a ‘field’ (an idea that became a crucial concept in twentieth-century physics).

Keywords:   James Clerk Maxwell, scientists, electricity, magnetism, Michael Faraday

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