FOURIER, Joseph. The Analytical Theory of Heat.

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FOURIER, Joseph The Analytical Theory of Heat. Cambridge: University Press. 1878.

8vo. Contemporary full brown calf, gilt fillets and Clare College Cambridge stamped armorial earl’s coronet and heraldic arms to sides, spine with gilt raised bands, lettering and centre tools, marbled endpapers, all edges marbled; pp. xxiii + 466; spine a little dulled, previous owner's bookplate to top left corner of front pastedown, otherwise near fine.
First English edition, translated by Alexander Freeman. First published in France in 1822, this is "the first and greatest book on the physical subject of the conduction of heat. It is one of the very few scientific books which can never be rendered antiquated by the progress of science." (Clerk Maxwell). It is surprising that it took so long to be published in English, given its significance in the foundation of the science of heat. It is also central to the understanding of global warming, as Fourier was the first person to suggest that the Earth's own atmosphere raises the planet's temperature and to analyse it mathematically. In fact, in this book he identifies a process that we now know as the greenhouse effect. He compared the Earth with its surrounding atmosphere to a box with a glass cover. When the box is warmed by sunlight, it is difficult for the heat to escape: “The examination of these results and of those which we obtained when the intervals between successive enclosures were occupied by atmospheric air explain clearly why the separation of surfaces and the intervention of air assist very much in retaining heat. Analysis furnishes in addition analogous consequences when we suppose the source to be external, and that the heat which emanates from it crosses successively different diathermanous envelopes and the air which they enclose. This is what has happened when experimenters have exposed to the rays of the sun thermometers covered by several sheets of glass within which different layers of air have been enclosed. For similar reasons the temperature of the higher regions of the atmosphere is very much less than at the surface of the earth.” (p.72).