Reflections on Water Public Lecture - Dissolving Uncertainties in Water: electric fishes, Volta's alarm bell, Humphry Davy, and a dynamical science
This is the first lecture in the 'Reflections on Water' public lecture series.
Newton wrote that there were agents in nature that made the particles of matter stick together by very strong attractions; and that it was the business of science to find them out. Chemical affinity unlike gravity was elective: only some things would combine. A Newton of chemistry was needed to explain affinity, getting beneath mechanical models to the fundamental forces that bound and modified matter. Water, shown to general astonishment to be a compound of two gases, turned out to be the crucial substance. The polar phenomena of electricity in the years around 1800 seemed vaguely a key to life (and death); and in the hands particularly of Humphry Davy definitely the key to chemistry: holding water and everything else together, and able to take them apart. Work on water made chemistry the fundamental science.
The level of the talks will be aimed at a general audience to encourage everyone from students and the interested general public to attend.
ALL IAS LECTURE ARE OPEN TO ALL AND FREE TO ATTEND
Image credit: 'History of the Water Module', R. Hayward, reproduced from L. Pauling and R. Hayward, The Architecture of Molecules (San Francisco: W H Freeman and Co., 1964).
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