James Clerk Maxwell published the Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism in 1873. At his death, six years later, his theory of the electromagnetic field was neither well understood nor widely accepted. By the mid-1890s, however, it was regarded as one of the most fundamental and fruitful of all physical theories. Bruce J. Hunt examines the joint work of a group of young British physicists—G. F. FitzGerald, Oliver Heaviside, and Oliver Lodge—along with a key German contributor, Heinrich Hertz. It was these "Maxwellians" who transformed the fertile but half-finished ideas presented in the Treatise into the concise and powerful system now known as "Maxwell's theory."
"This excellent book is the story of three men whose lives were shaped and whose friendship was made through the study of one book, James Clerk Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism. Behind this story is another of how the premature death of one man, Maxwell, caused an intellectual dislocation in science propagating over many years."—Science
"The entire story is fascinating and often surprising. It deserves a wide audience. This will be facilitated by the fact that the book is in English, not in mathematics; a few equations appear, but most are in plain prose."—American Scientist
"The Maxwellians is a remarkable achievement. . . . Hunt combines the highest level of professional historical scholarship with a narrative that is lively and compelling throughout."—Nature
"Told with historical sensitivity and analytical skill, Hunt's story demolishes many of the long-accepted myths about the history of electromagnetism after Maxwell. . . . Hunt provides a readable account, written in terms accessible to anyone with a basic knowledge of physics."—Times Higher Education Supplement
"George Francis Fitzgerald's indirect influence was immense, and his reputation grows with every retelling of his period by the historians of science, especially in . . . The Maxwellians, by Bruce Hunt. . . . He was the acknowledged leader of an international team—what we would today call an invisible college—calling themselves the Maxwellians—the subject of Hunt's splendid book."—D. Weaire, Trinity College, Dublin, Europhysics News