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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"How Maxwell made his mark": Review of Electrodynamics from Ampère to Einstein, by Olivier Darrigol. Reviewed by Scott Walter. Nature, 18 January 2001.

The book reviewer concurs with the book's author that James Clerk Maxwell's findings, taken for granted now, were fiercely contested during his life. The reviewer also notes that this book is the first comprehensive history of electrodynamics since 1910, and effectively pulls together the major developments and turning points from 1820-1905: Ampère's law, Faraday's notions of charge and current, the emergence of new quantitative methods in Germany, Maxwell's equations, Hertz's experiments, and the advent of the electron. One of the recurring themes of Darrigol's history concerns the close intertwining of theory and experiment in nineteenth-century electrodynamics, which is distinguished by the fact that all leading theorists were active in the laboratory. Mathematicians and others interested in the origins and evolution of field theory will be interested in this book.

--- Annette Emerson

American Mathematical Society