Mayer vs. Joule

Here’s something from the early history of thermodynamics: who should get the credit for the First Law?

Just came across an interesting io9 article: Why Julius Robert von Mayer was one of the unluckiest men in science by Esther Inglis-Arkel. [Wikipedia has a somewhat less racy account of the Joule-Mayer dispute over priority for the First Law]

[See also the scholarly article by J.T. Lloyd entitled The Background to the Joule-Mayer Controvery, and a more recent one on the series of Copley Medals awarded by the Royal Society to Joule, Mayer and Helmholtz in the early 1870s.]

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Inglis-Arkel’s article has a almost-throw-away line on the dispute between Edison and Tesla:

The history of science is dense with historic rivalries. One of the most famous was the Tesla/Edison fight that ended with present success but lasting ignominy for Edison. Tesla, meanwhile, has become something of a scientific folk hero, for all the good it did him during his life. …

For an excellent popular account of the dispute, as well as of Tesla’s other achievements, check out the Oatmeal post (in comics format) entitled Why Nikola Tesla was the greatest geek who ever lived.

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