Monday, February 18, 2013

A Giant of Irish Science: John Tyndall

John Tyndall was born in 1820 in Co. Carlow, Ireland. He was one of the most famous experimental physicists of his day and he was also one heck of a mountaineer. As well as being proclaimed the father of meteorology and climate change, he also had a number of first ascents, i.e. he was the first person to reach the peak of a number of unclimbed mountains.

Despite his achievements, he has been largely forgotten by the general public.

In this podcast we step back in time to a lecture theatre in London in the mid-1800s where Tyndall is about to astound his audience with something akin to magic.

Produced by Colette Kinsella
Contributor: Science writer Seán Duke
First broadcast on The History Show on RTÉ Radio 1 on 17 February, 2013


  1. Enjoyed your soundpiece on John T.
    Just because mass media has forgotten JT does not mean he has been totally forgotten. At least two books published about him here (Ireland) in 1970s & a mountaineering club named in his honour in early 80s (see: )members of which repeated his most famous climb on the anniversary of his death.
    You've used one of the most un-flattering portraits (above) - he wasn't always such a dour looking character!!

    1. Hi Kevin

      Thanks for getting in touch. And sorry about the photo - it was the only clear one I could find at the time!


  2. It might be of interest to know that there is a Tyndall Correspondence project that will publish all of his letters over the next ten or so years. See:

    Bernard Lightman,
    Professor of Humanities,
    York University (Toronto, Canada)

    1. Hi Bernard

      Thanks for letting me know about the Tyndall correspondence course. How fascinating! He certainly was an incredible man. I'll have a look at the link you included; perhaps there might be another nice piece in it for our History Show on RTÉ Radio 1!

      All the best from Ireland