Monday, May 24, 2021

James Prescott Joule

James Prescott Joule was born on Christmas Eve 1818 into a wealthy brewing family. He was born in Salford near Manchester, the heartland of the industrial Revolution.

A sickly child, he was tutored at home. He showed an early interest in science and appears to have derived particular amusement from passing electric shocks through servants and friends and from some hazardous attempts to capture atmospheric electricity with a kite.

At the age of 16 he was sent to the Manchester Literary and Philosophy Society (Lit & Phil) to be taught chemistry, physics, mathematics by the eminent Manchester scientist, John Dalton (1766- 1844); a local teacher and natural philosopher with radical scientific ideas.

Joule managed the family brewery from 1837 to 1856 which enabled him to experiment on the relationships between heat and electricity in a laboratory built in the cellar of his father’s home.

Joule’s experiment had a big influence and was one of the most relevant results around the emergence of the principle of conservation of energy. His ingenious experiment and extraordinary precision (considering the technical possibilities of the time) changed (or confirmed) the way scientists understood heat, and contributed to the birth of modern thermodynamics.

Throughout most of his life Joule was an isolated amateur scientist, but toward the end of his years his work was recognized by honorary doctorates from Dublin and Oxford. In his honor the unit of energy was named the joule.

Sickness dogged his final years and he died on 11 October 1889 in his house at 12, Wardle Road, Sale, Manchester.
James Prescott Joule

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