Monday, August 10, 2020

James Clerk Maxwell: Scottish scientist

James Clerk Maxwell (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879) was a physicists’ physicist, the prime author of the modern theory of colour vision, the principal creator of statistical thermodynamics, and above all the author of the classical electromagnetic theory, with its identification of light and electromagnetic waves.

James Clerk Maxwell was born at 14 India Street, Edinburgh, but he spent his early childhood (1831-41) at Glenlair in Scotland. His mother tragically died from cancer when he was eight-and-a-half years old. His father John Clerk Maxwell was an inspirational man—a lawyer with a strong scientific and technical interest: idiosyncratic, enquiring, versatile, energetic, compassionate, an independent character who educated young James by example more diversely than any formal school could have achieved.

His father did not neglect James’s formal education. He attended the school at Edinburgh Academy during 1841-47. While in school, at the age of 14, he published his first scientific paper ‘On the description of oval curves and those having a plurality of foci’. This fascination for geometry and for mechanical models continued through his whole career, and was of great help in his subsequent research.

From 1847 to 1850 he attended Edinburgh University when he was sixteen, and during this time he worked on the application of optical techniques to the study of elastic solids; from 1850 to 1854 to the University of Cambridge as an undergraduate, initially to Peterhouse but before the first year was out to Trinity.

In 1854 he came overall second in the final examinations, beaten only by E.J. Routh (of Routh's Rule for calculating moments of inertia). He was immediately given a staff position at Cambridge. Released from the pressures of formal examinations. Maxwell threw himself into original work.

In early 1856, James Clerk Maxwell, a young Fellow of Trinity, applied for the post of professor of natural philosophy at Marischal College, Aberdeen.

He soon found a post at King's College, London, where he came into contact with Faraday. At London, he published many of his most famous papers, including his Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field in 1864 which included the famous equations.

In 1865 Maxwell published A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field. It was with this that he first proposed that light was in fact undulations in the same medium that is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena. His work in producing a unified model of electromagnetism is one of the greatest advances in physics.
James Clerk Maxwell: Scottish scientist
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

The most popular articles

Other interesting articles

  • Captain Francis Light is known as the founder of the British Settlement of Penang. Francis Light was a Suffolk man and he baptized on 15th December, 1740....
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a late‑onset fatal neurodegenerative disease affecting motor neurons characterized by progressive loss of the upper ...