Treatise on Magnetism and Electricity, Vol. 1 of 2 (Classic Reprint)

Treatise on Magnetism and Electricity, Vol. 1 of 2 (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Treatise on Magnetism and Electricity, Vol. 1 of 2

During the preparation of the second volume of my Treatise on Absolute Measurements, I became strongly impressed with the desirability of a re-discussion of the whole subject of Electricity and Magnetism from the point of view of action in a medium. Since the publication of that work I have therefore tried to put together a statement which, from the beginning, should regard electric and magnetic forces as existing in a space-pervading medium in which the electric and magnetic energies are stored, and by which they are handed on from one place to another with a finite velocity of propagation.

Of coarse it is impossible to avoid abstractions. We cannot explain the electric and magnetic inductions in the sense of giving the rationale of their production by a mechanical system, but this may not be because we know less of thiags electric and magnetic than we do of the ordinary dynamical action of material systems, but because the explanation of electrical phenomena must be sought in the solution of those very difficulties which have to be faced when we try to account for the inertia of matter and ordinary forces between bodies, for example, gravitational attraction. The electromagnetic theory of light was established by Maxwells dynamical discussion of the electromagnetic field, and verified by. the experimental and theoretical researches of Hertz; but such dynamical theories seem to be possible only through the remarkable property of the Lagrangian method, by which the behaviour of the system may be qualitatively described and expressed in terms of generalised co-ordinates and their velocities,, although we have no means of defining the connections between them and the co-ordinates and velocities of the particles of the system.

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