Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/420

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assumption of space being void, and conjectured that the ether which transmits the luminous waves suffers modifications perceived under the form of electrical and magnetic manifestations. His discoveries, important as they were, gained due consideration only when Faraday's great countryman, Maxwell, treated the same subject in a purely scientific and theoretical way, publishing in 1865 his Mathematical Theory of Light. The nature and properties of ether he left undecided, and they form to this day dominant questions, destined, it seems, ultimately to reveal the deepest secrets of natural science. Maxwell labored to confirm the connection, surmised by Faraday, between light, electricity, and magnetism; the idea of velocity now entered the theory and became of supreme importance. Maxwell arrived at the conclusion that the velocity of electromotion in a given medium must be identical with the velocity of light in the same medium, and that therefore ether, being contained in all ponderable bodies, would have to be looked upon as the conductor of electric motion and power. Consequently the periodical motions of ether, which our eye conceives as light, and which he figured as transversal waves, were considered by Maxwell to be at the same time undulations of electricity. These conceptions, unproved by experiment as Maxwell left them, had merely the value of a scientific hypothesis emanating from a man of rare genius. To have proved them facts, and thereby to have united two vast and highly important domains of natural philosophy, is the lasting credit of Prof. Hertz.

The complexity of phenomena of light and electricity and the insufficient opportunities afforded by the laboratory for deductions of such magnitude rendered the obstacles barring the road to exact observation well-nigh insurmountable. Many of the best and ablest naturalists were laboring to cope with these difficulties. Two English scientists of highest standing. Prof. G. F. Fitzgerald and Dr. O. T. Lodge, were during the eighties occupied with experiments for the investigation and measurement of electric waves. But it was reserved for Hertz to discover and apply with marvelous ingenuity the necessary “detector,” a resonating circuit with an air-gap, the resistance of which is broken down by well-timed impulses, so that visible sparks are produced. After an unceasing course of experiments, in which he manifested indefatigable energy and a wonderful faculty of reaching the very essence of the matter, he succeeded in deciding the questions: Is the propagation of electrical and magnetic forces instantaneous? and further: Can electrical or magnetic effects be obtained directly from light? The paper On very Rapid Electric Oscillations, which was published in 1887, was the first of a splendid series of researches which appeared in Wiedemann's