Helge Kragh: Ludvig Lorenz. A Nineteenth-Century Theoretical Physicist. The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. Series M. Mathematica et
Physica vol. 3. 2018. 282 pages, paperback. 240 DKK.
Focus on a forgotten great Danish theoretical physicist
Ludvig Valentin Lorenz (1829-1891) was Denmark’s first theoretical physicist of international recognition. Although generally considered a secondary figure in the history of science, he contributed importantly to a wide range of subjects ranging from materials science to fundamental theories of optics and electrodynamics.
Apart from his theoretical work he was also a brilliant experimenter who felt as much at home in his laboratory as behind his study desk. Today his name is eponymously associated with terms such as the Lorenz gauge, the Lorenz-Lorentz formula, the Lorenz-Mie theory and the Lorenz number.
In this biography – the first ever – Lorenz’s life and science is described comprehensively and contextually, in part relying on Danish archival sources and other unpublished material. The focus of the book is on his contributions to physics, and to a lesser extent mathematics, which are discussed with consideration to how they were received in his own country and by the international community of physicists. In addition to a detailed discussion of Lorenz’s scientific work the book also evaluates his position in nineteenth-century physics generally and his relations to much better-known physicists such as G. R. Kirchhoff, J. C. Maxwell, B. Riemann and H. A. Lorentz. Moreover, it includes translations into English of published and unpublished sources which until now have existed in Danish only.
While most books on physics in the nineteenth century deal with contributions from the centres, this one offers a perspective from a physicist in a peripheral country.
ISSN 1904-5514 · ISBN 978-87-7304-417-9