Books by Thomas K. Simpson


Maxwell's Mathematical Rhetoric identifies the distinctively rhetorical functions of mathematics, as Maxwell employs them in the Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism.

Maxwell on the Electromagnetic Field  traces the devopment of Maxwell’s theory of the electromagnetic field.

Figures of Thought is a literary study of the form that theory finally takes, in Maxwell’s Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism.

Maxwell’s Treatise itself is available in two volumes in a Dover reprint edition. Dover Publictions.

Michael Faraday’s thought concerning the field underlies Maxwell’s own work in electromagnetism. I have reflected on Faraday’s thought in two lectures, Faraday’s Thought on Electromagnetism, and Faraday’s Mathematics.

A detailed study of Part IV of Maxwell’s Treatise is contained in my dissertation at the Johns Hopkins University, A Critical Study of Maxwell’s Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field in the “Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism” (1968).  Available from University Microfilms.

Finally, an overview of Maxwell’s thinking on electromagnetism is contained in an essay for Great Ideas Today, to be included in the book, Newton/Maxwell/Marx, forthcoming from the Green Lion Press.

"Maxwell's Mathematical Rhetoric"

After many years of circulating in typescript form, this remarkable study by Thomas K. Simpson—a work long celebrated as something of an underground classic—is at long last available in a new edition worthy of its vision and depth.

Simpson identifies the distinctively rhetorical functions of mathematics, as Maxwell employs them in the Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism. Like the tropes of classical rhetoric, mathematical rhetoric seeks intelligibility and illumination—in this respect contrasting with what Maxwell termed "the mathematics of pure quantity," which emphasizes precision and logical economy.

Maxwell's Mathematical Rhetoric is the book to which Simpson’s Figures of Thought (also available from Green Lion Press) serves as an introduction. Maxwell's Mathematical Rhetoric explores in greater depth and detail the themes adumbrated in Figures of Thought.

2010 Green Lion Press

Cover of the book "Figures of Thought."

"Figures of Thought"

Is there a rhetoric, a poetics, of mathematical physics? Can a physical treatise be read as literature, with characterizations, metaphors, figures, and plot? In this incisive work, Thomas K. Simpson shows that not only is a literary reading of James Clerk Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (1873) possible, but that such a reading brings us closer to Maxwell's underlying thought, revealing purposes that reach far beyond the equations of electromagnetism.
2005 Green Lion Press

Read the review by
Diane Greco Josefowicz

Cover of the book "Maxwell on the Electromagnetic Field."

In this volume in the Masterworks of Discovery series, Thomas K. Simpson offers readers a chance to watch one of the greatest minds in physics hard at work. In three papers in mathematical physics written between 1855 and 1864, James Clerk Maxwell grappled with his formulation of the theory of the electromagnetic field.

The volume reproduces nearly all of the text of Maxwell's classic papers on concepts that are key both to modern physics and the modern world. Through Simpson's engaging commentaries, notes, and illustrations, readers with limited knowledge of math or physics as well as scientists and historians of science will be able to follow the emergence of Maxwell's ideas and to appreciate the magnitude of his achievement. The book includes a long biographical introduction that explores the personal, historical, and scientific context of Maxwell's work.
Rutgers University Press

"Newton, Maxwell, Marx"

Newton, Maxwell, Marx:
three pillars of our western intellectual inheritance, yet each more celebrated in encyclopaedias and histories than read. It is the thesis of this new volume forthcoming from the Green Lion Press that there is much to be gained from a fresh reading of these authors. Three extensive essays are collected here, each reflecting a re-reading of a work of one of these authors: respectively, Newton's Principia, Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, and Marx's Capital.
A commentary has been added, linking them and proposing a dialectical thread that begins in the 17th century, and develops an unfolding vision of science still challenging in our own time.

Green Lion Press

Cover from the catalogue "The McMullen-Leavens Company."