James D. Livingston


Born June 23, 1930, in Brooklyn, New York. Jim Livingston studied engineering physics at Cornell University, and received a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard University in 1956. After retiring from General Electric after a lengthy career as a research physicist, he taught for 20 years in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT before retiring again. His research at GE was recognized by numerous awards, most notably election to membership in the National Academy of Engineering. Although a physicist by profession, he has long had a strong interest in American history, and today much of his time is focused on writing (and reading) in history and in science.

In addition to an engineering text and other technical writing, Livingston is author of a popular-science book, Driving Force: The Natural Magic of Magnets, a town history, Glenville:Past and Present, and several articles on New York State history. He married Sherry H. Penney in 1985, and they have collaborated on several writing projects in American history, including three publications based on Martha Coffin Wright, an early feminist and abolitionist: “Expectant at Seneca Falls,” (New York History, Winter 2003); “Hints for Wives-and Husbands” (Journal of Women’s History, Summer 2003); and “How Did Abolitionist Women and Their Slaveholding Relatives Negotiate Their Differences Over the Issue of Slavery?” http:/​/​womhist.binghamton.edu/​mcw/​doclist.htm.
Their biography, A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women’s Rights, was published by University of Massachusetts Press in July 2004.

His second history-based book, Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York, was published in 2010 by SUNY Press. It attempts to answer the question: "Who Put the Arsenic in Mrs. Bliss's Chowder?" At the murder trial on which the book is based, at the time the longest trial in the history of New York City, the prosecution and defense had very different answers to that question. Several years after the publication of Arsenic and Clam Chowder, he learned more about the alleged murderer's trip to Alaska on the Klondike Gold Rush. This led to a brief sequel, Mary Alice Finds Love in the Yukon, published as an Amazon ebook in 2018. Both books were based largely on period newspaper accounts.

In 2011, Jim returned to popular science with Rising Force: The Magic of Magnetic Levitation, an exciting look at maglev in all its forms, including flying frogs, floating globes, implanted heart pumps, and high-speed trains. It includes both the flying broomsticks of Harry Potter and the Wicked Witch of the West and the broomsticks flying down a real manufacturing line in Birmingham, Alabama. It's a book that's literally uplifting!

Rising Force was chosen by Physics World magazine (UK) as one of the 10 best popular-science books of 2011!

Jim's latest interest is space, and in fall 2012 he started writing monthly articles on space for The Patriot Ledger, a newspaper published in Quincy, Massachusetts. His early topics included life on Mars, NASA spinoffs, asteroids, exploration of the planets, and space tourism, and can be found on his blog.

Levitated globe - one of the 38 figures in Rising Force

Selected Works

A brief sequel to Arsenic and Clam Chowder, in which Mary Alice travels north on the Klondike Gold Rush
A sensational murder trial set in 1890s New York
Popular Science
The first review of the many and varied forms of magnetic levitation written for a general audience.
A entertaining treatment of the history, legends, science, and technology of magnets for a general audience.
Historical Biography
The dramatic life story of an early feminist and abolitionist who was both witty and wise.
Undergraduate Textbook
A lively introduction to the electrical, optical, and magnetic properties of solids.

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