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Tyndall , John (1820-1893)
Tyndall , John (1820-1893)
Irishman Tyndall’s day job involved being one of the outstanding scientists of the Victorian period. He was a research collaborator with Faraday and succeeded him as President of the Royal Institution. His academic curiosity first drew him to the Alps, where he was involved in the debate over the functioning of glaciers with his great rival Forbes. After publishing his last word on the subject (Glaciers of the Alps) in 1860, he turned his competitive energies towards climbing – and immediately became embroiled in the race to climb the two highest remaining unclimbed peaks in the Alps with Whymper. Tyndall struck the first blow in the fight for glory between the two when he made the first ascent of the Weisshorn. He then made successively higher attempts on the Italian side of the glamorous Matterhorn but Whymper eventually revenged his Weisshorn defeat with his eventful ascent of the peak in 1865. Tyndall was a touchy individual who was quick to take offence at perceived slights. He famously resigned from the Alpine Club when he was Vice-President after jokey comments by Leslie Stephens denigrating scientific pursuits in the mountains, while his rows with Forbes over their differing views about glaciers were legendary. Later in life, he blotted his reputation copybook even further when he entered politics.
Further reading: Hold the Heights, Walt Unsworth. Hodder & Stoughton, 1993; Killing Dragons, Fergus Fleming. Granta, 2000.
Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.
2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
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Tyndall , John (1820-1893)