A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts
Young's Lectures are "a mine to which every one has since resorted, [which] contained the original hints of more things since claimed as discoveries, than can perhaps be found in a single production of any known author... One of the men most distinguished for science in Europe has been known to say that is his library were on fire, and he could save only one book, it should be the lectures of Dr. Young." -Hudson Gurney (quoted in Robinson)
FIRST EDITION of the definitive collection of the work of Thomas Young, containing many original discoveries and the first full description of his famous double-slit experiment. Complete with 58 plates (two hand-colored).
In July, 1801, Young was granted the professorship of natural philosophy at Count Rumford's newly formed Royal Institution (soon to be made famous by Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday). The "most challenging aspect of his appointment was the preparation of an extensive course on natural philosophy which he delivered on two occasions; fifty lectures in 1802 and sixty in 1803. His lectures were not very well received since he pitched their content far above the capabilities of his audience. However, in preparing these courses, which covered mechanics, hydrodynamics, astronomy, and physics, he was forced to analyse critically a wide range of topics" (DNB). Young's Lectures, when published in 1807, contained, not only a thorough account of the state of most of the major sciences of his time, but the first appearance of many of Young's important discoveries. "It is here that Young defines what all engineers now know as Young's modulus of elasticity" and "at the head of the list must come Young's most renowned experiment of all... in which he used two narrow slits to split a beam of light into two beams and observe their interference on a screen" (Robinson). Although the first form of the celebrated experiment which has since become crucial to our understanding of both quantum theory and the nature of light appeared in an 1802 paper by Young published in the Philosophical Transactions, the Lectures contain an account of the fully-developed experiment as we know it today.
"Young's A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts is a magnificent-looking work, consisting of two quarto volumes running to more than fifteen hundred pages, with a plate section containing color illustrations in addition to some fine black-and-white engravings. Even the exacting Young was pleased... The first volume consists of the lectures and their illustrations; the second includes Young's papers not delivered as Royal Institution lectures (such as 'On the mechanism of the eye'), and a unique catalog of the scientific literature from the ancient Greeks up to about 1805 with extensive commentary by Young... Only Young, perhaps, among the scientists of his day would have had the command of foreign languages, combined with the range, judgement and industry to compile such a monumental bibliography" (Robinson, The Last Man who Knew Everything).
Provenance: Bookplates of John R. Freeman and one of James Jackson and C.S. Storrow (together) in each volume. Freeman, was likely John Ripley Freeman (1855-1932), internationally renowned hydraulics engineer; the Jackson/Storrow bookplate indicates likely ownership of James Jackson Storrow (1864-1926), Boston investment banker and president of General Motors, and his grandfather Charles Storer Storrow (1809-1904), the accomplished engineer who designed and built the dam and textile mill complex in Lawrence, MA and authored the highly influential engineering guide, A Treatise on Water-Works for Conveying and Distributing Supplies of Water.
London: William Savage for Joseph Johnson, 1807. Quarto, contemporary three-quarter calf over marbled boards. Light dampstaining to outer margin of first few leaves of volume I (inoffensive, not near the text); volume I spine label lost; some chips to leather of bindings, particularly at spine ends; joints tender but secure. A handsome, extremely wide-margined copy in contemporary bindings. RARE.