John Tyndall

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Tyndall, John

(tĭn`dəl), 1820–93, British physicist, b. Ireland. He became (1853) professor of natural philosophy at the Royal Institution and in 1867 succeeded Michael FaradayFaraday, Michael
, 1791–1867, English scientist. The son of a blacksmith, he was apprenticed to a bookbinder at the age of 14. He had little formal education, but acquired a store of scientific knowledge through reading and by attending educational lectures including, in
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, his friend and colleague, as superintendent there. His chief researches were in the fields of light, sound, and radiant heat. He made significant studies of Alpine glaciers. He was known as a lecturer and writer, and his gifted expositions of science for the layman were widely translated. The Tyndall effect (see colloidcolloid
[Gr.,=gluelike], a mixture in which one substance is divided into minute particles (called colloidal particles) and dispersed throughout a second substance. The mixture is also called a colloidal system, colloidal solution, or colloidal dispersion.
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) is named for him.

Tyndall, John


Born Aug. 2, 1820, in Leighlin Bridge, Ireland; died Dec. 4, 1893, in Hind Head, Surrey. British physicist. Fellow of the Royal Society of London (1852).

After graduating from the local national school in 1839, Tyndall worked as a topographer and geodesist for military organizations from 1840 to 1843 and as a railway engineer from 1844 to 1847. He graduated from the mechanics’ institute at Preston in 1844. From 1847 to 1848 and from 1851 to 1853 he taught at Queenwood College in Hampshire. Between 1848 and 1851 he studied at the universities of Marburg and Berlin. Appointed a professor at the Royal Institution in London in 1853, he became its superintendent in 1867.

Tyndall’s main works dealt with magnetism, acoustics, the absorption of thermal radiation by gases and vapors, and the scattering of light in media containing suspended particles (see). He also investigated the structure and motion of glaciers in the Alps. Tyndall wrote several popular science books that were translated into many languages.


In Russian translation:
Populiarnye lektsii, 2nd ed. St. Petersburg, 1885.
Svet: Shest’ lektsii. St. Petersburg, 1877.
Teplota, rassmatrivaemaia kak rod dvizheniia. St. Petersburg, 1864.
Faradei i ego olkrytiia. St. Petersburg, 1871.
Formy vody v oblakakh i rekakh, vo l’de i lednikakh. Moscow, 1873.
Lektsii ob elektrichestve, 3rd ed. St. Petersburg, 1885.


Eve, A. S., and C. H. Creasey. Life and Work of John Tyndall. London, 1945.