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John Tyndall: the forgotten co-founder of climate science
30.06.2021 Roland Jackson
Physics
John Tyndall

It is surprising that the Irish scientist John Tyndall, born 200 years ago on August 2 1820, is not better known. This is despite the existence of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, the Tyndall National Institute and the Pic Tyndall summit on the Matterhorn in the Alps. There are even several Mount Tyndalls, Tyndall glaciers and Tyndall craters on the Moon and Mars.

From that, you could surmise that he was both a significant scientist and a notable mountaineer. Yet, due to unfortunate circumstances, he is no household name.

In 1859, Tyndall showed that gases including carbon dioxide and water vapour can absorb heat. His heat source was not the Sun, but radiation from a copper cube containing boiling water. In modern terms, this was infrared radiation – just like that emanating from the Earth’s surface.

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