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The first quantitative confirmation of Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism

P.N. Lebedev: proof of Maxwell's theory of electrmagnetism


LEBEDEV, Pyotr Nikolayevich.

Untersuchungen über die Druckkräfte des Lichtes [The Experimental Study of the Pressure of Light] 

FIRST EDITION IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS, of the account of Lebedev’s dramatic experiment proving that light exerts a mechanical pressure on material bodies; a cornerstone discovery in modern physics that offered the first quantitative confirmation of Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory. 

In the A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, James Clerk Maxwell “made an important new prediction from his electromagnetic theory—that electromagnetic waves exert a radiation pressure. Bright sunlight, he calculated, presses on the earth’s surface with a force of around 4 pounds per square mile… This was too tiny a value to be observable in everyday life and its detection posed a challenge to experimenters. Eventually, in 1900, the Russian physicist Pyotr Lebedev succeeded, and confirmed James’ prediction. Although small on an earthly scale, radiation pressure is one of the factors that shape the universe. Without it there would be no stars like our sun… [The] discovery also helped to explain a phenomenon that had puzzled astronomers for centuries—why comets’ tails point away from the sun” (Mahan, The Man who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell, 183). Today, “the study of light pressure on atomic particles is… one of the most rapidly developing areas of Physics, and it forms the basis for some of the most important applications of lasers in experimental work” (Lembessis, “P. N. Lebedev and light radiation pressure”). 


First edition, journal issue. Particle Physics, One Hundred Years of Discoveries: “First experimental evidence for pressure of the light on the solid bodies.”  In: Annalen der Physik, Vol. 6, No. 11, pp. 433-458. Leipzig: Barth, 1901. Octavo, original wrappers. The entire issue offered. Chipping to rare and fragile original wrappers, small tape repairs to spine. Rare, particularly in original wrappers. $2500.

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