02 August-John Tyndall

John Tyndall was a 19th century experimental physicist who was a native of Co Carlow, Ireland. He was responsible for several significant scientific discoveries and inventions. Tyndall was professor of Professor of Natural Philosophy (Physics) at the Royal Institution in London from 1853 to 1887. He later served as Superintendent of the Royal Institution. He was also a mountaineer who carried out extensive studies of glaciers.

John Tyndall was born in Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow in 1820, where his father was a local policeman. He attended school in Ballinabranna near Carlow town. There, as a student in his late teens, he had the opportunity to study subjects such as technical drawing and mathematics and their application to land surveying. He joined the Ordnance Survey in 1839 and did some survey work in Carlow and later in Cork in the areas around Youghal and Kinsale.

Tyndall was transferred by the Ordnance Survey to Preston in England in 1842. While he was working in Preston he felt that workers on the survey were being exploited. He wrote articles in local newspapers and letters to politicians highlighting the plight of workers. Much to the disapproval of his father, he joined the Chartist movement of which Feargus Edward O’Connor was at the time a leading figure.

Dismissed by the Ordinance Survey for his actions, Tyndall returned to Ireland where he lived for a time with his parents in Leighlinbridge. Within a short period of time, however, he secured employment as railway surveyor in England. While working there he attended classes at the Mechanics Institute in Preston. He was later appointed to the teaching staff of Queenswood College, Hampshire, England.

Tyndall left Queenswood in 1848 to study at the Marburg University, Germany where he was awarded a Ph.D. in 1850. During his time studying at Marburg, Tyndall regularly sent papers on scientific topics for publication in the Carlow Sentinel. Following his time studying in Germany he applied for lectureship posts at the Universities in both Cork and Galway but failed to get appointed.

Tyndall returned to England and after a period lecturing he was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy at the Royal Institution in 1853. There he began working with the scientist Michael Faraday who was then President of the Royal Institution. When Faraday died in 1862 Tyndall was appointed as his successor. Tyndall carried out research in many areas and made many discoveries and observations. These include the Tyndall Effect (the reason the sky looks blue) and the reasons for what is known today as the Greenhouse Effect. He also developed what he called the light-pipe, which was the forerunner of the modern day optical fibre.

Tyndall was a keen mountaineer. He climbed several of the highest peaks on the Alps and carried out extensive studies of glaciers. Items he invented include the infra-red spectrometer and the first respirator for a fireman. John Tyndall died on December 4th 1893 at the age 73 from an accidental overdose of mediation for insomnia. The Tyndall National Institute in University College Cork was named in his honour. A new Vocational School which is under construction in Carlow town is due to open in September 2017. Located about 12km from where Tyndall was born will be called Tyndall College.

John Tyndall, famous scientist and mountaineer was born in Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow, Ireland in the year 1820 On This Day.

Portrait of John Tyndall (1820-1893), Physicist by Smithsonian Institution on 2008-05-20 19:11:18

John Tyndall FRS 1820 -1893 by Bolckow on 2012-02-18 12:08:00

Image taken from page 212 of ‘The Glaciers of the Alps. Being a narrative of excursions and ascents. An account of the origin and phenomena of Glaciers, and an exposition of the physical principles to which they are related … With illustrations. (Append by mechanicalcurator on 2013-10-23 12:39:52

UCC Quad by Bernie Goldbach on 2005-06-06 16:57:41

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