|About the Book|
In 1840, a precocious 16-year-old by the name of William Thomson spent his summer studying an extraordinarily sophisticated mathematical controversy. His brilliant analysis made the boy an instant intellectual celebrity. As a young scholar WilliamMoreIn 1840, a precocious 16-year-old by the name of William Thomson spent his summer studying an extraordinarily sophisticated mathematical controversy. His brilliant analysis made the boy an instant intellectual celebrity. As a young scholar William dazzled a Victorian society enthralled with the seductive authority and powerful beauty of scientific discovery, laying the groundwork for the theories of electromagnetism and thermodynamics. Moving beyond pure science, he worked out a theory for signal transmission along undersea telegraph cables and designed instruments that made the first transatlantic link a success. Charismatic, confident, and boyishly handsome, Thomson was elevated to the peerage by the Queen for his achievements. Indeed, his name survives in the designation of degrees Kelvin, the temperature scale on which absolute zero is defined. Lauded for his brilliance, Sir William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, was Great Britains unrivaled scientific hero. But as the century drew to a close, and Queen Victorias reign ended, this legendary scientific mind also shut down. The great physicist was publicly dubious about the existence of atoms. He refused to believe that radioactivity involved the transmutation of elements. And he vehemently opposed Charles Darwins views on the origin of species. This pioneer of modern science spent his waning years arguing that the Earth and the Sun could not be more than 100 million years old. In the end Thomson came to stand for all that was old and complacent in the world of 19th-century science. Unraveling the mystery of a life composed of equal parts of triumph and tragedy, hubris and humility, this new biography yields a surprising and compellingportrait of a complex and enigmatic man.