George B Jeffery's books

George B Jeffery published one mathematical book on the theory of relativity and a number of other works on education which he either wrote or edited. We list some below together with some extracts from reviews. Jeffery also translated a number of German paper on the theory of relativity but we have not included these in the list below.

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Relativity for Physics Students (1924)

The Unity of Knowledge: Reflections on the Universities Of Cambridge and London (1950)

The Year Book of Education 1950 (1950)

The Year Book of Education 1954 (1954), with William F Russell

External Examinations in Secondary Schools: Their Place and Function (1958)

1. Relativity for Physics Students (1924), by George B Jeffery.
1.1. Review by: H T H Piaggio.
The Mathematical Gazette 12 (176) (1925), 395-397.

Prof Jeffery's book, as its title implies, is not for "the man in the street" or for the expert mathematician, but for an intermediate class, for "students of science who are able to make some use of mathematics as an instrument of thought, but who may be not quite ready to face the mathematical analysis which is essential for the thorough exploration of the subject in all its ramifications." However, the introduction, which occupies about one-fifth of the book, should be quite intelligible to those who have hardly any knowledge of mathematics at all. It traces the evolution of the ideas of mechanics, starting with the sixteenth-century astronomer Tycho Brahe. His observations were studied by his assistant Kepler, who succeeded in deducing from them three fairly simple laws of planetary motion. Meanwhile Galileo had ascertained by experiment the laws which govern the motion of falling bodies. The work of these men provided the material that enabled Newton to set up his laws of motion, which, except for a few minute discrepancies, have proved adequate to explain and predict the motion of the solar system. But Newton's "absolute space" raised a great difficulty. This space may be roughly defined as that mapped out by the fixed stars. Unfortunately for this definition the so-called fixed stars are, in some cases at least, moving relatively to each other with widely different velocities. A new hope of defining a frame of reference that should have some claim to the title absolute arose with the progress of the ether theory, which in the hands of Faraday and Maxwell proved so valuable in electricity and optics. But this hope was soon blighted. "If mechanics adopted the ether in order to simplify the problem of motion, never was foster-parent blessed with a more unruly child ... the time had arrived when some fundamental reconstruction of the theory could no longer be delayed. Einstein did not bring forth his theory merely as an elaboration and refinement of physical law in order to bring theory into accord with a few isolated and newly discovered facts: he brought it forth to meet the situation created by a complete theoretical breakdown of the older system."

The book then proceeds to discuss the restricted principle of relativity, which is treated fairly fully, including the application to aberration, the Doppler effect, Fresnel's dragging coefficient, and the field of a moving electron. At this stage the reader must be prepared to face the equations of the electromagnetic field as adopted by Lorentz. Of course, every serious student of physics should be familiar with these, but it is to be feared that many who are attracted chiefly by the experimental side of the subject will be rather frightened by the number of partial differential coefficients involved.

The general theory is dealt with very briefly. Prof Jeffery's treatment of the gravitational deflection of light and of the spectral shift is very simple, and seems valuable for beginners, although, as he frankly admits, it is open to criticism at several points. The motion of the perihelion of Mercury gives more trouble. The usual formula for the interval is quoted without proof, but with a brief outline of the principles used to obtain it. The orbit is then deduced by making the interval between any two points stationary. The work is given in full, and can be understood by those who are entirely ignorant of the calculus of variations.

Prof Jeffrey concludes with a list of books and papers for those who desire a more thorough treatment. "Every young English physicist should study at least the first of these books" (viz. Eddington's Report to the Physical Society on the Relativity Theory of Gravitation). There is good ground for the hope expressed "that these lectures will help to smooth the way by a preliminary exploration of the ground."

1.2. Review by: H C Levinson.
Astrophysical Journal 69 (1929), 312-314.

Professor Jeffery's little book, which derives its dynamic style from the lecture platform, carries us at one sitting through the last century of physics, leaving us well landed, at least, on, the terrain of relativity. During the first third of the book, which is historical in character, no details or proofs retard the exposition. The second third introduces the special theory of relativity. Perhaps the outstanding feature of this section is the demonstration that the Maxwell equations of the electromagnetic field retain their form under a Lorentz transformation of variables. The inclusion of this point is particularly fortunate, due to its historic importance in the development of the theory. The last third takes up the general theory, with particular emphasis on the equivalence hypothesis. The theory of tensors is disposed of in five pages; the intentions of the author are confined to formal introductions. In the same spirit Einstein's field equations of gravitation are entirely omitted, the breach being partially filled by Schwarzschild's solution of them for the case of an isolated mass-point. This leads to a calculation of the advance of the perihelion point of a planetary orbit. Instead of deducing the deflection of light from the equations of motion of a planet by passing to the limit ds = 0, Professor Jeffery makes the assumption that the same result can be obtained from a uniform gravitational field, and by an appeal to the principle of equivalence is thus able to derive the usual formula. By the same method he finds the formula for the shift of the spectral lines of a star. While this reasoning, as the author carefully points out, is by no means conclusive, yet it is very instructive from the physical point of view, and adds to the merit of the book.
2. The Unity of Knowledge: Reflections on the Universities Of Cambridge and London (1950), by George B Jeffery.
2.1. Review by: Charles C Gillispie.
The Journal of Higher Education 22 (8) (1951), 450.

Mr Jeffery deplores the tendency of universities like London to parcel out knowledge among academic departments; he goes so far as to call this the dis- integration of knowledge. But what we are to do to achieve the desired unity, we are not told. Or at least what we are told is so vague that it is difficult to see how it could mean anything in practice. Mr Jeffrey expresses nostalgia for the college atmosphere in the undepartmentalized Cambridge of yore; he indulges in some curious mathematical analogies about the relationship of one bit of his knowledge to another and of one scholar's knowledge to that of a community of scholars; he declares that universities have a social responsibility; he holds that it would be desirable to teach things more philosophically; and he invokes the well-rounded shade of Sir Arthur Eddington.

2.2. Review by: K F.
Blackfriars 32 (381) (1951), 623.

Very many University teachers today are uneasily conscious of the problems into which Mr Jeffery probes in this thoughtful little book; they will see their own misgivings reflected in it. Mr Jeffery knows his academic world and is much concerned for its welfare; and, since his intelligence is both strong and discreet, his diagnosis is valuable; though he does not seem to be so sure of the remedy as of the disease. This disease might be described as a lack of intrinsic order; this is not Mr Jeffery's term, but it represents, I think, his meaning. Round the academic bee-hive buzzes a vast swarm of distinct 'subjects'; and the average don is so busy trying to master his own particular bee and get its honey to those who want it and pay for it, that he has practically no time to enquire into the ultimate purpose of the hive. The particular jobs, however, are done pretty well as a rule: and masses of honey are produced. But next to nothing is done to relate the product to the consumers, other than quite superficially. In other words, the knowledge produced by the modern University is not ordered, as knowledge, in a scale of value corresponding to any intrinsic or natural order in the minds that want it; except quite superficially. Whether minds, or knowledge itself, have such an intrinsic order is a question that the system does not seem to presuppose and certainly does not encourage. The result is that those who keep the system going have not really got their hearts in it as it stands; they feel that for all its external efficiency it is inwardly chaotic.

This is a sharper statement than any that Mr Jeffery makes; but it is, I think, borne out by his sober reflections on the history of London University and on his own experience of it and of Cambridge. He traces in fact a process of disintegration; the dividing of knowledge from religion and social life with the loss of the old collegiate system, the multiplication of jealously divided departments, the growth of excessive deference to the 'expert'. A University, he says, must be 'prepared to stand up to its experts'. As to remedies he is tentative; but believes that some more 'philosophy' in the curricula would be an excellent thing. It would indeed.
3. The Year Book of Education, 1950 (1950), edited by G B Jeffery.
3.1. Review by: George F Kneller.
The Journal of Higher Education 3 (2) (1952), 109-110.

The 1950 edition of the Year Book deals with occupational selection and vocational education as conceived and practiced in most of the leading countries of the world. ...

Acknowledging that in this field "there are great gaps in objective knowledge," the editors preface reports from abroad with a remarkably fine series of essays on such topics as selection and social patterns, the theory of mental testing, psychological testing as a measuring operation, heredity and environment in relation to education, educational opportunity and social mobility, and the problem of selection at the university level. Running through all these essays is the premise that the educational pattern and the occupational pattern are closely related, and a strong case is presented from both an historical and an analytical point of view to demonstrate the "obvious" quality of this relationship.

Closely connected with this premise are certain others: first, the schools have always tended to adapt themselves to the social order; second, the educational system is one of the agencies which introduce individuals into appropriate status groups; third, schools are "social elevators"; fourth, they do much to counteract or counterbalance biased criteria of social selection, which has been based historically on "blood, money, ability, and sex" (page 11). Regarding the effect of selection on the social institution known as the family, the following observation is presented as a sample of the astuteness of the writers (page 13):
It may be said that by giving people a place in society commensurate with their individual gifts rather than with the position of their family ... one lessens the importance of the family itself as an institution
In several places the editors make short shrift of any concept of a dichotomy, real or imaginary, between the "vocational" and "classical" purposes of education, and decry the "unearned social privilege" of the independent schools, stemming as it does from narrow conceptions of the aims of education. Without disdaining the values of education in the humanities, the editors are nevertheless certain that (page 17):
... the rise in the social prestige of technical education has important results: it opens the way to higher education for large groups of the population who have no traditional attachment to classical schools ... the main visible outcome of such changes is that everywhere the number of students in universities has greatly increased, and their social composition is drastically altered
Accepting the fact that in modern society specialisation and selection are becoming factors of greater importance and that examinations are a requisite for admission to all forms of public service, the editors concern themselves with the need for revising examination procedures and school curriculums simultaneously:
Useless to bemoan the fact that [the examination system] affects and distorts the curriculum and the methods of teaching. Of course it does: but it is not an additional piece of machinery, an accidental adjunct to the system; on the contrary, it is an organic part of the whole. To change it in any important respect means changing the whole. ...
The chief social importance of examinations is their selective function and it is thus their predicative value which matters (pages 21, 25).

In providing society with the proper talent and leadership, certain aspects of vocational guidance, intelligence testing, and state support of worthy candidates come under discussion. The text presents a powerful, if brief, definition of élites and their proper place in democratic societies (pages 39-40):
The new élites should act as leaven in the masses, serving them without servility or flattery, acting as centres of enlightenment, helping their brethren to reach towards the maximum of education and of self-fulfilment. [The leaders chosen must be] imbued with a high sense of responsibility to the com- munity, and ... permeated by a common culture, the stream of experience, in which their brethren move.
4. The Year Book of Education 1954 (1954), edited by William F Russell and G B Jeffery.
4.1. Review by: Adam Curle.
British Journal of Educational Studies 3 (1) (1954), 76-79.

The editors put [the impact of one form of society on another ... seen primarily in terms of education] excellently in a passage which must be quoted in extenso. They are discussing the tendency for us in the west to view social improvement in terms of raising the standard of living. But what in any case they say:
... is meant by "a better life"? Shall it be modelled in the antiseptic, efficient, dynamic, moneyed, and phrenetic culture pattern of the technological West? Or shall it be the contemplative, leisurely, mystical, class-structured, traditional society of the under-developed area? As we have pointed out earlier, the vocal leader of a depressed population may want the motor-cars, refrigerators, and higher purchasing power that comes with the machine and modern technology. But he may be reluctant to relinquish his ancient ways - his village system, the status of his women, his hordes of servants, his religious observances, his political vested interests. He does not realise that the machine brings with it the set of moral and ethical commitments from which the invention sprang. Western technology can give better medicine, but the improved health conditions will bring in their train lower infant mortality, higher birth-rates, increased population, demographic pressure, and ultimately social readjustment to meet this new cultural problem. The recipient society cannot avoid the problem: it can only select from a choice of possible solutions - slums, low-cost housing, altered wage structures, changed economics, immigration, birth control, mystical withdrawal from reality, destruction of family systems and increased mechanisation. The greatest lesson learned from post-war experience, then, is that it is easier to establish modern industrial technology than to solve the social, moral and ethical problems that ensue.
5. External Examinations in Secondary Schools: Their Place and Function (1958), edited by G B Jeffery.
5.1. Review by: James A Petch.
British Journal of Educational Studies 7 (1) (1958), 88-89.

Though this year is the centenary of the grant to the University of London of her third Charter, from which were to flow consequences momentous for the development of secondary education in England, this book which consists for the most part of lectures delivered last year in the University's Institute of Education makes small contribution in celebration of that event: the historical view is largely lacking. As a book it is of course sadly unfinished. G B Jeffery's lamented death has left as an incomplete fragment the Introduction which completed would doubtless have provided the common linkage needed by a series of lectures by different lecturers and also no doubt would have set out the reasoned bases for what are at times in Jeffery's own lecture on 'Secondary School Examinations and University Entrance' bare assertions of belief and optimistic professions of hope. Jeffery's part in these pages is a reminder of what we have lost by his death rather than a memorial of the work he had done in a wide field of educational endeavour.

Last Updated November 2020