The 318 letters in this volume reveal a great deal about Tyndall’s personality, the development of his career, and his role in attempting to better establish science as a respectable and professional enterprise. However, Tyndall was not above controversy, and on more than one occasion he entered public disputes either in defense of his own or a colleagues’ priority claims over scientific discoveries. Perhaps the most dramatic letters—if not those detailing the accounts of his cousin Hector Tyndale’s courageous exploits in the American Civil War—are those relating to Tyndall’s mountaineering adventures. He climbed in pursuit of science, and often with only a guide, making an attempt on the Matterhorn just days after Edward Whymper had failed in the effort. Toward the end of this volume, Tyndall, Thomas Henry Huxley, and others acquired the Reader. Although short-lived, the journal intended to promote and publish the works, society meetings, and correspondence of scientific men, and demonstrates Tyndall’s commitment to the popularization of science and to facilitating communication within the international scientific community.
This sixth volume of Tyndall’s correspondence contains 302 letters covering a period of twenty-eight months (1856-1859). It begins shortly after Tyndall returned from his first glacier research in the Alps and follows him as he experimented and lectured on physics in central London at the Royal Institution of Great Britain (RI), visited friends, joined London’s fashionable social circles, published and reviewed scientific articles, corresponded with fellow men of science on a wide range of topics, and developed his theories about the structure and movement of glaciers. Importantly, volume 6 includes Tyndall’s major expeditions to the Alps and also documents some of his most dangerous mountaineering exploits. In letters to his closest friends, Tyndall captured the excitement and achievement of his expeditions. By the end of the period, his is increasingly respected as a scientist in the wider academic world.