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Oliver Heaviside and the significance of the British electrical debate

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Between 1886 and 1889, the British scientific and engineering communities witnessed several controversies regarding the principles underlying certain components of electrical circuits. The purpose of this paper is to show that these controversies should be regarded as reflecting a stage in the emergence of basic industrial research as a mediating agency between practical engineering and pure science. It will be suggested that the resolution of these controversies required careful formulation of approximations guided by a practical familiarity with the details of the relevant systems. This underscored an approach to basic engineering problems within which practical experience and scientific theory were regarded as equally fundamental.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Wolfson College, Oxford, OX2 6UD, U.K.

Publication date: 1993-03-01

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