• Philip R. Wallace


In the third decade of the 19th century, Michael Faraday, son of a blacksmith with very little formal education, undertook extensive studies on electric and magnetic phenomena, which laid the foundation for modern physics. Great as his technical contributions to science were, his most important contribution was an intuitive idea—what we now call fields, electric and magnetic conditions in space—on which contemporary physics is founded. From the time of Isaac Newton, physics had been the science of mechanics, the motion of material particles under the influence of forces. The idea of fields was not readily accommodated to such a framework, and a conflict of ideas ensued. Could fields be explained in terms of material entities? For this purpose, the idea of an all-pervading material ether was invented to carry the fields. Thus, a radical innovation in physics was accommodated by an interpretation, that of fields as material in character.


Quantum Mechanic Modern Physic Contemporary Physic Technical Contribution Magnetic Phenomenon 
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  1. 1.
    From Lavoisier, Fourier, Faraday. Britannica Great Books No. 45, p. 758 (1952).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    From The World of Physics edited by J.H. Weaver, Vol. 1, p. 850. Simon and Schuster, 1987.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    In the 19th century, the terms force and energy were often used interchangeably.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip R. Wallace
    • 1
  1. 1.McGill UniversityVictoriaCanada

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