History and Philosophy Of Science | Maxwell in Victorian Science & Culture
X755 | 24854 | Jordi Cat


Maxwell in Victorian Science & Culture

Maxwell sought to look at and understand the world through a battery
of  abstract ideas, concrete imaginary models, material objects and
experimental bodily practices. In this seminar we will look from the
other  end of these instruments in order to see and understand,
instead,  Maxwell's own world. Maxwell's physics of mechanical and
geometrical models  represents the final triumph of the mechanical
and the mathematical  worldviews before the radical changes
introduced by 20th-century physics. It  includes the first general
theory of color, molecular theory of gases  and unified field theory
of physical electric and magnetic forces. A  closer looks reveals a
connective, constructive and concrete natural  philosophy. A rich
weave of different interests intersect:  the significance of physics
from the viewpoint of history, philosophy and science; the role of
language -ordinary, literary and  mathematical-; precision, unity
and generality of representation and reasoning;  psychology of
mental faculties; manipulation, representation and construction of
instruments and machines; anatomy and physiology of perception and
muscular action; photography, and  artistic, decorative and
technical graphic design (geometric and chromatic); architecture;
culture of commerce, economy and  industry, work and energy
involving machines, humans and matter in  general; working men's
education; education of undergraduates and professional scientists;
metaphysics of powers in things and  humans; the problem of free
will; religion and natural theology; and more. All these themes
resonate with intellectual, cultural and social aspects of Victorian
culture, family traditions and Scottish history.