Outlining the Way
In 1872 Oliver Heaviside embarked on what turned into a fascinating career of scientific publication. It was to last until the early years of the twentieth century. The beginning, however, seems to have been quite humble. The papers he published between 1872 and 1881 bear little, if any, indication of the radical revision of telegraph and telephone practices that he provided in 1887. They hint at neither his formulation of vector algebra, nor at the powerful, innovative and controversial version of the operational calculus that he developed and used; and only in hindsight do they reveal elements of his insightful interpretaion of Maxwell’ electromagnetic theory. Perhaps for these reasons his early papers have been largely ignored in previous examinations of his work. Yet, they provide some key insights into his view of the relationship between mathematics and physics, his style of analysis, and the slow emergence of a research program that guided him in most of his subsequent eork. The puporse of this chapter is to outline these fundamental aspects of Heaviside’s work as they appear in his papers from 1872 to 1881.
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