Exploratory Experiments

Ampère, Faraday, and the Origins of Electrodynamics

What Steinle does is capture the excitement of the discovery of electromagnetism by Hans Oersted in 1820, and the subsequent rush to study it further by the greatest experimental scientists of the age.
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Winner, 2017 Ungar Translations Award

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Translated by Alex Levine

The nineteenth century was a formative period for electromagnetism and electrodynamics. Hans Christian Orsted’s groundbreaking discovery of the interaction between electricity and magnetism in 1820 inspired a wave of research, led to the science of electrodynamics, and resulted in the development of electromagnetic theory. Remarkably, in response, Andre-Marie Ampere and Michael Faraday developed two incompatible, competing theories. Although their approaches and conceptual frameworks were fundamentally different, together their work launched a technological revolution—laying the foundation for our modern scientific understanding of electricity—and one of the most important debates in physics, between electrodynamic action-at-a-distance and field theories.

In this foundational study, Friedrich Steinle compares the influential work of Ampere and Faraday to reveal the prominent role of exploratory experimentation in the development of science. While this exploratory phase was responsible for decisive conceptual innovations, it has yet to be examined in such great detail. Focusing on Ampere’s and Faraday’s research practices, reconstructed from previously unknown archival materials, including laboratory notes, diaries, letters, and interactions with instrument makers, this book considers both the historic and epistemological basis of exploratory experimentation and its importance to scientific development.

544 Pages, 6 x 9 in.

May, 2016

isbn : 9780822944508

about the author

Friedrich Steinle

Friedrich Steinle is professor of history of science at the Technical University of Berlin and president of the German Society for History of Science, Medicine, and Technology.

Alex Levine is professor of philosophy at the University of South Florida and editor of the journal Perspectives on Science.  He is coauthor of From Man to Ape and Darwinistas He has published translations from German, French, and Spanish, including Paul Hoyningen-Huene’s Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions and Formal Logic: A Philosophical Approach.

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Friedrich Steinle