John Tyndall 1820-1893

  • Born

    was born in Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, into a Protestant family of small landowners.
  • Period: to

    John Tyndall

    John Tyndall (1820-1893) was one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century. He made important contributions in physics, atmospheric science and geology. Tyndall was also a gifted public lecturer, an avid promoter of the public understanding of science, and a noted mountaineer. He is best remembered popularly as the man who first explained why the sky is blue.
  • years 1839 to 1850

    years 1839 to 1850
    John joined the Irish Ordnance Survey in 1839 as a surveyor/draughtsman and was transferred to the English Survey in 1842. He was sacked from this post in 1843, primarily because he protested at its treatment of the Irish. After 3 years of working on the construction of the UK rail network, he secured employment teaching mathematics at Queenwood College Hampshire. In 1848, Tyndall went to Marburg, Germany to do a Ph.D. on magnetism in the laboratory of Robert Bunsen. He finished in two years.
  • Royal Institution

    Royal Institution
    Tyndall returned to England and spent 2 years at Queenwood
    College. In 1853 he was invited to lecture at the Royal Institution (RI) and was so successful he was invited to give a course of lectures. In 1853 he was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy at the RI and began to work beside the great Michael Faraday (1791-1867), Superintendent of the RI. Tyndall became renowned as a public lecturer, making difficult scientific concepts understandable and entertaining to the layperson.
  • Greenhouse effect

    Greenhouse effect
    In 1859 Tyndall began to study the capacities of various gases to absorb or transmit radiant heat. He showed that the main atmospheric gases, nitrogen and oxygen, are almost transparent to radiant heat, whereas water vapor, carbon dioxide and ozone are such good absorbers that, even in small quantities, these gases absorb heat radiation much more strongly than the rest of the atmosphere. He said without water vapor, the Earth's surface would be held fast in the iron grip from greenhouse effect.
  • studied glaciers

    studied glaciers
    He studied glaciers and became a skilled mountaineer. In 1860 he made the first ascent of the Weiss horn, and he climbed Mount Blanc, the highest alpine peak, several times. In 1863 he would have been the first to climb the Matterhorn, but his guides wouldn't attempt the last peak.
  • Tyndall Effect

    Tyndall Effect
    discovered the scattering of light by dust and large molecules, now known as the Tyndall Effect. He noticed that a beam of light, visible as it passed through ordinary laboratory air, disappeared when it entered a flask of pure filtered water. He now passed a light beam through filtered air and got the same result - no beam. He deduced that light bounces off little particles and into our eyes, allowing us to see the beam. He found that different sized particles scattered light in different ways
  • Death

    He died in 1893 from an accidental overdose of chloral administered by his wife.