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Oliver Heaviside - Maverick Mastermind of Electricity (History of Technology Series) Paperback – 28 Apr 2009


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Heaviside may not be as well known as his 19th century contemporaries Maxwell and Kelvin, but when we talk about Maxwell s equations today, it is Heaviside s tidy vector formulation that we mean, not Maxwell s ponderous 20-variable original. This biography of the brilliant-but-odd electromagnetism pioneer, who gave journal editors nightmares by speckling his papers with libellous attacks on his opponents is a great introduction to an often overlooked figure. --Physics World, December 2009

About the Author

A former officer in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Basil Mahon is a retired Government Statistician who ran the 1991 census in England and Wales and has had a lifelong passion for the physical sciences. Oliver Heaviside follows up his acclaimed book The Man Who Changed Everything , a biography of Heaviside s own hero, James Clerk Maxwell.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Good book, great subject, poor execution on the kindle 9 April 2011
By Mike Morgan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is a good book. Due to the nature of the narrative, it is at times a tiny bit repetitious, but it is definitely worth a read if you're interested in the history of great men in electrical engineering.

I picked up this book after reading another of the author's books on James Clerk Maxwell. This book on Heaviside is more interesting than the one on Clerk Maxwell, in some respects, because we learn more about the man. That man--Oliver Heaviside--is a very interesting character indeed (self-educated, wrote to an audience who did not yet exist, stubborn to his own detriment), whose contributions to the field of electrical engineering are under-appreciated by my generation, and those who follow.

In comparison, the book on Clerk Maxwell was more tightly presented and edited, and is also a good book, even if we do not learn as much about the man.

I give both books 4 stars, for different reasons, and these ratings are admittedly biased slightly by my appreciation of the subjects--though the author B. Mahon no doubt deserves most of the credit.

SPOILER. In this book we learn that it was not just the creation/evolution controversy that produced great and cantankerous debates among learned men. One of my favorite quips of all time (after Wilberforce's question to Huxley as to whether it was through Huxley's mother or father Huxley claimed descent from apes) is Heaviside's snarky rebuttal of Peter Guthrie Tait, during the great vector/quarternion debate. Tait, in defense of Quarternions, was very publicly belittling Heaviside's and Willard Gibbs' use of and work on a related but ultimately competing mathematical tool, vectors.

Heaviside enjoyed a good argument as much as Tait, and referred to Tait as a "consummately profound metaphysicomathematian," and the quarternion as a "hermaphrodite monster." Heavisdie also wrote: " 'Quarterion' was, I think, defined by an American schoolgirl to be 'an ancient religious ceremony'. This was, however, a complete mistake. The ancients--unlike Prof. Tait--knew not, and did not worship Quarternions.".

This last quote, I think, epitomizes Heaviside--pugnacious and cocksure yet correct and years ahead of his time.

However, there are many typesetting problems with the kindle edition. For example, at location 2594, "It was a simple case: when a regular si nusoidal ly osci I lating voltage was applied to a circuit, his differential operator pbecame_jw, and the restfol lowed."

The endnotes are often very interesting, and worth reading in context--but the kindle edition makes this difficult. The superscripted endnote numbers do not have hyperlinks to the endnotes section, which is located at the end of the book. There are a few other footnotes in the text that do have hyperlinks, e.g., to explain underlined technical terms. It would be better, in my view, if the superscripted endnote numbers also had hyperlinks. As it is now, you have to read the endnotes when you get to the endnote section, or if you want to read them sooner, you have to remember the section you're on, find and jump to the endnote section, and then jump back to the chapter you're reading if you haven't forgotten its location. This method, besides being difficult for human beings to execute (requiring one to remember location numbers correctly while simultaneously focusing on the content), has the added drawback of corrupting the "furthest location read" marker.

In summary, the typesetting and the navigation for the kindle edition of this book leaves a lot to be desired.

For the kindle execution, I give it 1 star. Somebody really dropped the ball.

To the Kindle typesetter/editor, please fix the errors in this publication, and notify and allow customers to download the corrections without losing any notes we may have already made.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Inspired Reader 17 Nov 2012
By Inspired Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn the amazing contribution Heaviside made to Electrical Engineering inspite of his many handicaps and weaknesses. Basil Mahon also gives some insights into the evolution of the technical aspects of the subject.
Five Stars 13 Aug 2014
By Gene Wagenbreth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fascinating
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