James Clerk Maxwell

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James Clerk Maxwell
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| birth_place = Edinburgh, Scotlanddf=yes11183113}}| death_place = Cambridge, England| resting_place = Parton, Kirkcudbrightshire55.006693type:landmark|display=inline}}| citizenship = British| nationality = Scottish| fields = Physics and mathematics| workplaces = Marischal College, AberdeenKing's College, LondonUniversity of Cambridge| alma_mater = University of EdinburghUniversity of Cambridge| academic_advisors = William Hopkins| notable_students = George Chrystal Horace Lamb John Henry PoyntingMaxwell's equationsMaxwell relationsMaxwell distributionMaxwell's demonMaxwell's discsMaxwell speed distributionMaxwell's theoremMaxwell materialGeneralized Maxwell modelDisplacement currentMaxwell coilMaxwell's wheelHTTP://WWW.NIKHEF.NL/~H73/KN1C/PRAKTIKUM/PHYWE/LEP/EXPERIM/1_3_18.PDF PUBLISHER=PHYWE LABORATORY EXPERIMENTS: PHYSICS URL-STATUS=LIVE ARCHIVEDATE=18 APRIL 2016, | author_abbrev_bot = | author_abbrev_zoo = | influences = Sir Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday| influenced = Virtually all subsequent physicsFellow of the Royal Society>FRS FRSESmith's Prize (1854) Adams Prize (1857) Rumford Medal (1860) Keith Prize (1869–71)| signature = James Clerk Maxwell sig.svg| footnotes = | spouse = Katherine Clerk Maxwell}}James Clerk Maxwell {{Post-nominals|size=100%|FRS|FRSE}} (13 June 1831 â€“ 5 November 1879) was a ScottishWEB, Early day motion 2048,weblink 22 April 2013, UK Parliament, live,weblink" title="">weblink 30 May 2013, WEB, James Clerk Maxwell,weblink 22 April 2013, The Science Museum, London, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 31 May 2013, dmy-all, scientist in the field of mathematical physics.WEB,weblink Topology and Scottish mathematical physics, University of St Andrews, 9 September 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 12 September 2013, His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as different manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism have been called the "second great unification in physics" JOURNAL, 10.1109/6.123329, Nahin, P.J., IEEE Spectrum, 29, 3, 1992, 45, Maxwell's grand unification, after the first one realised by Isaac Newton.With the publication of "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field" in 1865, Maxwell demonstrated that electric and magnetic fields travel through space as waves moving at the speed of light.BOOK, Wolfram, Stephen, A New Kind of Science, Wolfram Media, Inc., 2002, 1045, 1-57955-008-8, registration,weblink He proposed that light is an undulation in the same medium that is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena.JOURNAL, Maxwell, James Clerk, A dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field,weblink PDF, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 155, 459–512, 1865, 1865RSPT..155..459C, 10.1098/rstl.1865.0008, live,weblink" title="">weblink 28 July 2011, (This article accompanied an 8 December 1864 presentation by Maxwell to the Royal Society. His statement that "light and magnetism are affections of the same substance" is at page 499.) The unification of light and electrical phenomena led his prediction of the existence of radio waves. Maxwell is also regarded as a founder of the modern field of electrical engineering.Tapan K. Sakar, Magdalena Salazar-Palma, Dipak L. Sengupta; James Clerk Maxwell: The Founder of Electrical Engineering; 2010 Second Region 8 IEEE Conference on the History of Communications;IEEE He helped develop the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution, a statistical means of describing aspects of the kinetic theory of gases. He is also known for presenting the first durable colour photograph in 1861 and for his foundational work on analysing the rigidity of rod-and-joint frameworks (trusses) like those in many bridges.His discoveries helped usher in the era of modern physics, laying the foundation for such fields as special relativity and quantum mechanics. Many physicists regard Maxwell as the 19th-century scientist having the greatest influence on 20th-century physics. His contributions to the science are considered by many to be of the same magnitude as those of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.BOOK,weblink James Clerk Maxwell : a biography, Tolstoy, Ivan, University of Chicago Press, 1981, 0-226-80785-1, Chicago, 2, 8688302, In the millennium poll—a survey of the 100 most prominent physicists—Maxwell was voted the third greatest physicist of all time, behind only Newton and Einstein.NEWS,weblink BBC News, Einstein the greatest, BBC, 29 November 1999, 2 April 2010, live,weblink" title="">weblink 11 January 2009, On the centenary of Maxwell's birthday, Einstein described Maxwell's work as the "most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton".WEB,weblink Brainy young James wasn't so daft after all, McFall, Patrick, 23 April 2006, The Sunday Post,, 29 March 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 20 June 2013, Einstein, when he visited the University of Cambridge in 1922, was told by his host that he had done great things because he stood on Newton's shoulders; Einstein replied: "No I don't. I stand on the shoulders of Maxwell".Mary Shine Thompson,2009, The Fire l' the Flint,p.103; Four Courts


Early life, 1831–1839

File:James Clerk Maxwell's birthplace at 14 India Street.jpg|thumb|upright|James Clerk Maxwell's birthplace at 14 India Street, Edinburgh. It is now the home of the James Clerk Maxwell FoundationJames Clerk Maxwell FoundationJames Clerk Maxwell was born on 13 June 1831 at 14 India Street, Edinburgh, to John Clerk Maxwell of Middlebie, an advocate, and Frances Cay{{harvnb|Harman|2004|p=506}}{{harvnb|Waterston|Macmillan Shearer|2006|page=633}} daughter of Robert Hodshon Cay and sister of John Cay. (His birthplace now houses a museum operated by the James Clerk Maxwell Foundation.) His father was a man of comfortable meansBOOK,weblink 49, Energy and the Unexpected, Laidler, Keith James, Oxford University Press, 2002, 978-0-19-852516-5, live,weblink 24 April 2016, of the Clerk family of Penicuik, holders of the baronetcy of Clerk of Penicuik. His father's brother was the 6th Baronet.BOOK,weblink Preface, The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, 978-1-108-01225-6, Maxwell, James Clerk, 2011, He had been born "John Clerk", adding Maxwell to his own after he inherited (as an infant in 1793) the Middlebie estate, a Maxwell property in Dumfriesshire. James was a first cousin of both the artist Jemima BlackburnWEB,weblink Jemima Blackburn, Gazetteer for Scotland, 27 August 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 12 November 2013, (the daughter of his father's sister) and the civil engineer William Dyce Cay (the son of his mother's brother). Cay and Maxwell were close friends and Cay acted as his best man when Maxwell married.WEB,weblink William Dyce Cay,, live,weblink" title="">weblink 25 September 2015, Maxwell's parents met and married when they were well into their thirties;BOOK,weblink James Clerk Maxwell : a biography, Tolstoy, Ivan, University of Chicago Press, 1981, 0-226-80785-1, Chicago, 11, 8688302, his mother was nearly 40 when he was born. They had had one earlier child, a daughter named Elizabeth, who died in infancy.{{harvnb|Campbell|1882|p=1}}When Maxwell was young his family moved to Glenlair, in Kirkcudbrightshire which his parents had built on the estate which comprised {{convert|1500|acre|ha}}.{{harvnb|Mahon|2003|pp=186–187}} All indications suggest that Maxwell had maintained an unquenchable curiosity from an early age.BOOK,weblink James Clerk Maxwell : a biography, Tolstoy, Ivan, University of Chicago Press, 1981, 0-226-80785-1, Chicago, 13, 8688302, By the age of three, everything that moved, shone, or made a noise drew the question: "what's the go o' that?"{{harvnb|Mahon|2003|p=3}} In a passage added to a letter from his father to his sister-in-law Jane Cay in 1834, his mother described this innate sense of inquisitiveness:}}

Education, 1839–1847

Recognising the boy's potential, Maxwell's mother Frances took responsibility for his early education, which in the Victorian era was largely the job of the woman of the house. At eight he could recite long passages of Milton and the whole of the 119th psalm (176 verses). Indeed, his knowledge of scripture was already detailed; he could give chapter and verse for almost any quotation from the psalms. His mother was taken ill with abdominal cancer and, after an unsuccessful operation, died in December 1839 when he was eight years old. His education was then overseen by his father and his father's sister-in-law Jane, both of whom played pivotal roles in his life.BOOK,weblink James Clerk Maxwell : a biography, Tolstoy, Ivan, University of Chicago Press, 1981, 0-226-80785-1, Chicago, 15–16, 8688302, His formal schooling began unsuccessfully under the guidance of a 16 year old hired tutor. Little is known about the young man hired to instruct Maxwell, except that he treated the younger boy harshly, chiding him for being slow and wayward. The tutor was dismissed in November 1841. James' father took him to Robert Davidson's demonstration of electric propulsion and magnetic force on February 12, 1842, an experience with profound implications for the boy.Anthony F. Anderson (11 June 1981) Forces of Inspiration, The New Scientist, pages 712,3 via Google Books(File:Edinburgh Academy - - 567821.jpg|alt=|thumb|Edinburgh Academy, where Maxwell was educated) Maxwell was sent to the prestigious Edinburgh Academy.{{harvnb|Campbell|1882|pp=19–21}} He lodged during term times at the house of his aunt Isabella. During this time his passion for drawing was encouraged by his older cousin Jemima.{{harvnb|Mahon|2003|pp=12–14}} The 10-year-old Maxwell, having been raised in isolation on his father's countryside estate, did not fit in well at school.{{harvnb|Mahon|2003|p=10}} The first year had been full, obliging him to join the second year with classmates a year his senior. His mannerisms and Galloway accent struck the other boys as rustic. Having arrived on his first day of school wearing a pair of homemade shoes and a tunic, he earned the unkind nickname of "(wikt:daft|Daftie)".{{harvnb|Mahon|2003|p=4}} He never seemed to resent the epithet, bearing it without complaint for many years.{{harvnb|Campbell|1882|pp=23–24}} Social isolation at the Academy ended when he met Lewis Campbell and Peter Guthrie Tait, two boys of a similar age who were to become notable scholars later in life. They remained lifelong friends.Maxwell was fascinated by geometry at an early age, rediscovering the regular polyhedra before he received any formal instruction. Despite winning the school's scripture biography prize in his second year, his academic work remained unnoticed until, at the age of 13, he won the school's mathematical medal and first prize for both English and poetry.{{harvnb|Campbell|1882|p=43}}Maxwell's interests ranged far beyond the school syllabus and he did not pay particular attention to examination performance. He wrote his first scientific paper at the age of 14. In it he described a mechanical means of drawing mathematical curves with a piece of twine, and the properties of ellipses, Cartesian ovals, and related curves with more than two foci. His work "Oval Curves" was presented to the Royal Society of Edinburgh by James Forbes, a professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh,{{harvnb|Gardner|2007|pp=46–49}} because Maxwell was deemed too young to present the work himself.{{harvnb|Mahon|2003|p=16}} The work was not entirely original, since René Descartes had also examined the properties of such multifocal ellipses in the 17th century, but he had simplified their construction.

University of Edinburgh, 1847–1850

(File:Edinburgh University 1827.jpg|left|thumb|Old College, University of Edinburgh)Maxwell left the Academy in 1847 at age 16 and began attending classes at the University of Edinburgh.{{harvnb|Harman|2004|p=662}} He had the opportunity to attend the University of Cambridge, but decided, after his first term, to complete the full course of his undergraduate studies at Edinburgh. The academic staff of the University included some highly regarded names; his first year tutors included Sir William Hamilton, who lectured him on logic and metaphysics, Philip Kelland on mathematics, and James Forbes on natural philosophy. He did not find his classes at the University demanding,{{harvnb|Tolstoy|1982|p=46}} and was therefore able to immerse himself in private study during free time at the University and particularly when back home at Glenlair.{{harvnb|Campbell|1882|p=64}} There he would experiment with improvised chemical, electric, and magnetic apparatus, however his chief concerns regarded the properties of polarised light.{{harvnb|Mahon|2003|pp=30–31}} He constructed shaped blocks of gelatine, subjected them to various stresses, and with a pair of polarising prisms given to him by William Nicol, viewed the coloured fringes that had developed within the jelly.{{harvnb|Timoshenko|1983|p=58}} Through this practice he discovered photoelasticity, which is a means of determining the stress distribution within physical structures.{{harvnb|Russo|1996|p=73}}At age 18, Maxwell contributed two papers for the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. One of these, "On the Equilibrium of Elastic Solids", laid the foundation for an important discovery later in his life, which was the temporary double refraction produced in viscous liquids by shear stress.{{harvnb|Timoshenko|1983|pp=268–278}} His other paper was "Rolling Curves" and, just as with the paper "Oval Curves" that he had written at the Edinburgh Academy, he was again considered too young to stand at the rostrum to present it himself. The paper was delivered to the Royal Society by his tutor Kelland instead.{{harvnb|Glazebrook|1896|p=23}}

University of Cambridge, 1850–1856

File:YoungJamesClerkMaxwell.jpg|thumb|right|upright|A young Maxwell at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is holding one of his colour wheelcolour wheelIn October 1850, already an accomplished mathematician, Maxwell left Scotland for the University of Cambridge. He initially attended Peterhouse, however before the end of his first term transferred to Trinity, where he believed it would be easier to obtain a fellowship.{{harvnb|Glazebrook|1896|p=28}} At Trinity he was elected to the elite secret society known as the Cambridge Apostles.{{harvnb|Glazebrook|1896|p=30}} Maxwell's intellectual understanding of his Christian faith and of science grew rapidly during his Cambridge years. He joined the "Apostles", an exclusive debating society of the intellectual elite, where through his essays he sought to work out this understanding.}}The extent to which Maxwell "ploughed up" his Christian beliefs and put them to the intellectual test, can be judged only incompletely from his writings. But there is plenty of evidence, especially from his undergraduate days, that he did deeply examine his faith. Certainly, his knowledge of the Bible was remarkable, so his confidence in the Scriptures was not based on ignorance.In the summer of his third year, Maxwell spent some time at the Suffolk home of the Rev C.B. Tayler, the uncle of a classmate, G.W.H. Tayler. The love of God shown by the family impressed Maxwell, particularly after he was nursed back from ill health by the minister and his wife.{{harvnb|Campbell|1882|pp=169–170}}On his return to Cambridge, Maxwell writes to his recent host a chatty and affectionate letter including the following testimony,In November 1851, Maxwell studied under William Hopkins, whose success in nurturing mathematical genius had earned him the nickname of "senior wrangler-maker".{{harvnb|Warwick|2003|pp=84–85}}In 1854, Maxwell graduated from Trinity with a degree in mathematics. He scored second highest in the final examination, coming behind Edward Routh and earning himself the title of Second Wrangler. He was later declared equal with Routh in the more exacting ordeal of the Smith's Prize examination.{{harvnb|Tolstoy|1982|p=62}} Immediately after earning his degree, Maxwell read his paper "On the Transformation of Surfaces by Bending" to the Cambridge Philosophical Society.{{harvnb|Harman|1998|p=3}} This is one of the few purely mathematical papers he had written, demonstrating his growing stature as a mathematician.{{harvnb|Tolstoy|1982|p=61}} Maxwell decided to remain at Trinity after graduating and applied for a fellowship, which was a process that he could expect to take a couple of years.{{harvnb|Mahon|2003|pp=47–48}} Buoyed by his success as a research student, he would be free, apart from some tutoring and examining duties, to pursue scientific interests at his own leisure.The nature and perception of colour was one such interest which he had begun at the University of Edinburgh while he was a student of Forbes.{{harvnb|Mahon|2003|p=51}} With the coloured spinning tops invented by Forbes, Maxwell was able to demonstrate that white light would result from a mixture of red, green, and blue light. His paper "Experiments on Colour" laid out the principles of colour combination and was presented to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in March 1855.{{harvnb|Tolstoy|1982|pp=64–65. The full title of Maxwell's paper was "Experiments on colour, as perceived by the eye, with remarks on colour-blindness".}} Maxwell was this time able to deliver it himself.Maxwell was made a fellow of Trinity on 10 October 1855, sooner than was the norm, and was asked to prepare lectures on hydrostatics and optics and to set examination papers.{{harvnb|Glazebrook|1896|pp=43–46}} The following February he was urged by Forbes to apply for the newly vacant Chair of Natural Philosophy at Marischal College, Aberdeen.{{harvnb|Campbell|1882|p=126}} His father assisted him in the task of preparing the necessary references, but died on 2 April at Glenlair before either knew the result of Maxwell's candidacy. He accepted the professorship at Aberdeen, leaving Cambridge in November 1856.

Marischal College, Aberdeen, 1856–1860

File:Saturn HST 2004-03-22.jpg|thumb|left|Maxwell proved that the Rings of SaturnRings of SaturnThe 25-year-old Maxwell was a good 15 years younger than any other professor at Marischal. He engaged himself with his new responsibilities as head of a department, devising the syllabus and preparing lectures.{{harvnb|Mahon|2003|pp=69–71}} He committed himself to lecturing 15 hours a week, including a weekly pro bono lecture to the local working men's college. He lived in Aberdeen with his cousin William Dyce Cay, a Scottish civil engineer, during the six months of the academic year and spent the summers at Glenlair, which he had inherited from his father.(File:JamesClerkMaxwell-KatherineMaxwell-1869.jpg|thumb|upright|James and Katherine Maxwell, 1869)He focused his attention on a problem that had eluded scientists for 200 years: the nature of Saturn's rings. It was unknown how they could remain stable without breaking up, drifting away or crashing into Saturn.{{harvnb|Harman|1998|pp=48–53}} The problem took on a particular resonance at that time because St John's College, Cambridge had chosen it as the topic for the 1857 Adams Prize.{{harvnb|Harman|2004|p=508}} Maxwell devoted two years to studying the problem, proving that a regular solid ring could not be stable, while a fluid ring would be forced by wave action to break up into blobs. Since neither was observed, he concluded that the rings must be composed of numerous small particles he called "brick-bats", each independently orbiting Saturn. Maxwell was awarded the £130 Adams Prize in 1859 for his essay "On the stability of the motion of Saturn's rings";WEB,weblink On the stability of the motion of Saturn's rings, 24 March 2014, live,weblink 16 June 2015, he was the only entrant to have made enough headway to submit an entry.{{harvnb|Mahon|2003|p=75}} His work was so detailed and convincing that when George Biddell Airy read it he commented "It is one of the most remarkable applications of mathematics to physics that I have ever seen." It was considered the final word on the issue until direct observations by the Voyager flybys of the 1980s confirmed Maxwell's prediction that the rings were composed of particles.WEB,weblink James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879), National Library of Scotland, 27 August 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 6 October 2013, It is now understood, however, that the rings' particles are not stable at all, being pulled by gravity onto Saturn. The rings are expected to vanish entirely over the next 300 million years.WEB,weblink Goodbye to Saturn's Rings, EarthSky, 20 February 2019, live, In 1857 Maxwell befriended the Reverend Daniel Dewar, who was then the Principal of Marischal.WEB,weblink Very Rev. Daniel Dewar DD (I20494), Stanford University, 27 August 2013, Through him Maxwell met Dewar's daughter, Katherine Mary Dewar. They were engaged in February 1858 and married in Aberdeen on 2 June 1858. On the marriage record, Maxwell is listed as Professor of Natural Philosophy in Marischal College, Aberdeen.James Clerk Maxwell and Katherine Mary Dewar marriage certificate, Family History Library film #280176, district 168/2 (Old Machar, Aberdeen), page 83, certificate No. 65. Seven years Maxwell's senior, comparatively little is known of Katherine, although it is known that she helped in his lab and worked on experiments in viscosity.{{harvnb|Maxwell|2001|p=351}} Maxwell's biographer and friend, Lewis Campbell, adopted an uncharacteristic reticence on the subject of Katherine, though describing their married life as "one of unexampled devotion".{{harvnb|Tolstoy|1982|pp=88–91}}In 1860 Marischal College merged with the neighbouring King's College to form the University of Aberdeen. There was no room for two professors of Natural Philosophy, so Maxwell, despite his scientific reputation, found himself laid off. He was unsuccessful in applying for Forbes's recently vacated chair at Edinburgh, the post instead going to Tait. Maxwell was granted the Chair of Natural Philosophy at King's College, London, instead.{{harvnb|Glazebrook|1896|p=54}} After recovering from a near-fatal bout of smallpox in 1860, he moved to London with his wife.{{harvnb|Tolstoy|1982|p=98}}

King's College, London, 1860–1865

File:Maxwell IEEE Plaque KCL.jpg|thumb|left|400 px|Commemoration of Maxwell's equations at King's College. One of three identical IEEE Milestone Plaques, the others being at Maxwell's birthplace in Edinburgh and the family home at Glenlair.WEB,weblink James Clerk Maxwell Foundation, James Clerk Maxwell Foundation, 28 May 2015, live,weblink" title="">weblink 19 August 2015, ]]Maxwell's time at King's was probably the most productive of his career. He was awarded the Royal Society's Rumford Medal in 1860 for his work on colour and was later elected to the Society in 1861.{{harvnb|Tolstoy|1982|p=103}} This period of his life would see him display the world's first light-fast colour photograph, further develop his ideas on the viscosity of gases, and propose a system of defining physical quantities—now known as dimensional analysis. Maxwell would often attend lectures at the Royal Institution, where he came into regular contact with Michael Faraday. The relationship between the two men could not be described as being close, because Faraday was 40 years Maxwell's senior and showed signs of senility. They nevertheless maintained a strong respect for each other's talents.{{harvnb|Tolstoy|1982|pp=100–101}}(File:James Clerk Maxwell 16 Palace Gardens Terrace blue plaque.jpg|thumb|Blue plaque, 16 Palace Gardens Terrace, Kensington, Maxwell's home, 1860–1865)This time is especially noteworthy for the advances Maxwell made in the fields of electricity and magnetism. He examined the nature of both electric and magnetic fields in his two-part paper "On physical lines of force", which was published in 1861. In it he provided a conceptual model for electromagnetic induction, consisting of tiny spinning cells of magnetic flux. Two more parts were later added to and published in that same paper in early 1862. In the first additional part he discussed the nature of electrostatics and displacement current. In the second additional part, he dealt with the rotation of the plane of the polarisation of light in a magnetic field, a phenomenon that had been discovered by Faraday and is now known as the Faraday effect.{{harvnb|Mahon|2003|p=109}}

Later years, 1865–1879

(File:JCM Grave-1.jpg|thumb|The gravestone at Parton Kirk (Galloway) of James Clerk Maxwell, his parents and his wife)(File:JCM Memorial Stone-1.jpg|thumb|This memorial stone to James Clerk Maxwell stands on a green in front of the church, beside the war memorial at Parton (Galloway).)In 1865 Maxwell resigned the chair at King's College, London, and returned to Glenlair with Katherine. In his paper 'On governors' (1868) he mathematically described the behaviour of governors, devices that control the speed of steam engines, thereby establishing the theoretical basis of control engineering.Maxwell, J.C. (1868),'On governors', from the proceedings of the Royal Society, No. 100 In his paper "On reciprocal figures, frames and diagrams of forces" (1870) he discussed the rigidity of various designs of lattice.JOURNAL,weblink 10.1017/S0080456800026351, I.—On Reciprocal Figures, Frames, and Diagrams of Forces, 2013, Maxwell, J. Clerk, Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 26, 1, live,weblink" title="">weblink 12 May 2014, JOURNAL,weblink Structural rigidity, Crapo, Henry, Structural Topology, 1979, 1, 26–45, live,weblink" title="">weblink 23 October 2014, He wrote the textbook Theory of Heat (1871) and the treatise Matter and Motion (1876). Maxwell was also the first to make explicit use of dimensional analysis, in 1871.BOOK,weblink 20–21, The Creative Power of Chance, 978-0-252-06686-3, Lestienne, Rémy, 1998, live,weblink 8 May 2016, In 1871 he returned to Cambridge to become the first Cavendish Professor of Physics.WEB,weblink The Cavendish Professorship of Physics, University of Cambridge, Department of Physics, 27 March 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 3 July 2013, Maxwell was put in charge of the development of the Cavendish Laboratory, supervising every step in the progress of the building and of the purchase of the collection of apparatus.WEB,weblink The Old Cavendish – "The First Ten Years", University of Cambridge Department of Physics, Moralee, Dennis, 30 June 2013, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 15 September 2013, One of Maxwell's last great contributions to science was the editing (with copious original notes) of the research of Henry Cavendish, from which it appeared that Cavendish researched, amongst other things, such questions as the density of the Earth and the composition of water.BOOK,weblink 40, What's Who?: A Dictionary of Things Named After People and the People They are Named After, 978-1-84876-047-9, Jones, Roger, 2009, live,weblink 20 May 2016, Maxwell died in Cambridge of abdominal cancer on 5 November 1879 at the age of 48. His mother had died at the same age of the same type of cancer.WEB,weblink James Clerk Maxwell Foundation, 30 June 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 27 August 2013, The minister who regularly visited him in his last weeks was astonished at his lucidity and the immense power and scope of his memory, but comments more particularly,As death approached Maxwell told a Cambridge colleague,Maxwell is buried at Parton Kirk, near Castle Douglas in Galloway close to where he grew up.WEB,weblink Parton & Sam Callander, James Clerk Maxwell Foundation, 30 June 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 2 June 2013, The extended biography The Life of James Clerk Maxwell, by his former schoolfellow and lifelong friend Professor Lewis Campbell, was published in 1882.BOOK,weblink The Life of James Clerk Maxwell: With a Selection from His Correspondence and Occasional Writings and a Sketch of His Contributions to Science, 978-1-108-01370-3, Campbell, Lewis, 2010, live,weblink 29 May 2016, BOOK, Campbell, Lewis, 1882, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell: With a Selection from His Correspondence and Occasional Writings and a Sketch of His Contributions to Science, Macmillan, London, 1,weblink 16 June 2014, harv, live,weblink 5 September 2014, His collected works were issued in two volumes by the Cambridge University Press in 1890.BOOK,weblink The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, 978-1-108-01225-6, Maxwell, James Clerk, 2011, live,weblink 2 May 2016,

Personal life

As a great lover of Scottish poetry, Maxwell memorised poems and wrote his own.WEB,weblink James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879); Member APS 1875, Seitz, Frederick, The American Philosophical Society, 20 May 2011, Philadelphia, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 18 October 2011, The best known is Rigid Body Sings, closely based on "Comin' Through the Rye" by Robert Burns, which he apparently used to sing while accompanying himself on a guitar. It has the opening linesWEB, Rigid Body Sings, Haverford College,weblink 26 March 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 4 April 2013, A collection of his poems was published by his friend Lewis Campbell in 1882.WEB,weblink Selected Poetry of James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879), University of Toronto Libraries, 27 August 2013, Descriptions of Maxwell remark upon his remarkable intellectual qualities being matched by social awkwardness.BOOK,weblink 88, The Power Makers: Steam, Electricity, and the Men Who Invented Modern America, 978-1-59691-834-4, Klein, Maury, 2010, live,weblink 8 May 2016, Maxwell was an evangelical Presbyterian and in his later years became an Elder of the Church of Scotland.JOURNAL, 1916, The Aberdeen University Review, The Aberdeen University Press, III,weblink The Aberdeen university review, live,weblink" title="">weblink 25 June 2012, Maxwell's religious beliefs and related activities have been the focus of a number of papers.WEB,weblink James Clerk Maxwell's Refusal to Join the Victoria Institute, Jerrold, L. McNatt, 3 September 2004, American Scientific Affiliation, 25 March 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 7 July 2012, JOURNAL, Maxwell and creation: Acceptance, criticism, and his anonymous publication, American Journal of Physics, 2007, Philip L., Marston, 75, 8, 731–740, 10.1119/1.2735631, 2007AmJPh..75..731M, JOURNAL, Theerman, Paul, 1986, James Clerk Maxwell and religion, American Journal of Physics, 54, 4, 312–317, 10.1119/1.14636, 1986AmJPh..54..312T, WEB,weblink Hutchinson, Ian, James Clerk Maxwell and the Christian Proposition, January 1998, 2006, 26 March 2013, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 31 December 2012, dmy-all, Attending both Church of Scotland (his father's denomination) and Episcopalian (his mother's denomination) services as a child, Maxwell later underwent an evangelical conversion in April 1853. One facet of this conversion may have aligned him with an antipositivist position.

Scientific legacy


File:Postcard-from-Maxwell-to-Tait.jpg|thumb|left|A postcard from Maxwell to Peter Tait ]]Maxwell had studied and commented on electricity and magnetism as early as 1855 when his paper "On Faraday's lines of force" was read to the Cambridge Philosophical Society.WEB,weblink On Faraday's Lines of Force, Maxwell, James Clerk, 1855, Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society,, 27 March 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 17 March 2014, The paper presented a simplified model of Faraday's work and how electricity and magnetism are related. He reduced all of the current knowledge into a linked set of differential equations with 20 equations in 20 variables. This work was later published as "On Physical Lines of Force" in March 1861.WEB,weblink 1861: James Clerk Maxwell's greatest year, 18 April 2011, King's College London, 28 March 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 22 June 2013, Around 1862, while lecturing at King's College, Maxwell calculated that the speed of propagation of an electromagnetic field is approximately that of the speed of light (see speed of light#electromagnetic constants). He considered this to be more than just a coincidence, commenting, "We can scarcely avoid the conclusion that light consists in the transverse undulations of the same medium which is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena."WEB,weblink James Clerk Maxwell, O'Connor, J.J., Robertson, E.F., November 1997, School of Mathematical and Computational Sciences University of St Andrews, 25 March 2013, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 28 January 2011, Working on the problem further, Maxwell showed that the equations predict the existence of waves of oscillating electric and magnetic fields that travel through empty space at a speed that could be predicted from simple electrical experiments; using the data available at the time, Maxwell obtained a velocity of {{convert|310740000|m/s}}.WEB,weblink ECEN3410 Electromagnetic Waves, University of Colorado, 30 June 2013, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 17 March 2014, dmy-all, In his 1864 paper "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field", Maxwell wrote, "The agreement of the results seems to show that light and magnetism are affections of the same substance, and that light is an electromagnetic disturbance propagated through the field according to electromagnetic laws".His famous twenty equations, in their modern form of four partial differential equations, first appeared in fully developed form in his textbook A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism in 1873.WEB,weblink Year 13 – 1873: A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism by James Clerk Maxwell, MIT Libraries, 30 June 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 7 July 2013, Most of this work was done by Maxwell at Glenlair during the period between holding his London post and his taking up the Cavendish chair. Maxwell expressed electromagnetism in the algebra of quaternions and made the electromagnetic potential the centrepiece of his theory.WEB,weblink Extraordinary Physics, The Tom Bearden Website, 30 April 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 4 March 2013, In 1881 Oliver Heaviside replaced Maxwell's electromagnetic potential field by 'force fields' as the centrepiece of electromagnetic theory. Heaviside reduced the complexity of Maxwell's theory down to four differential equations, known now collectively as Maxwell's Laws or Maxwell's equations. According to Heaviside, the electromagnetic potential field was arbitrary and needed to be "murdered".B.J. Hunt (1991) The Maxwellians, pages 165,6, Cornell University Press {{ISBN|0801482348}} The use of scalar and vector potentials is now standard in the solution of Maxwell's equations.{{harvnb|Eyges|1972|p=section 11.6.}}A few years later there was a debate between Heaviside and Peter Guthrie Tait about the relative merits of vector analysis and quaternions. The result was the realisation that there was no need for the greater physical insights provided by quaternions if the theory was purely local, and vector analysis became commonplace.{{harvnb|Barrett|Grimes|1995|pp=7–8}} Maxwell was proven correct, and his quantitative connection between light and electromagnetism is considered one of the great accomplishments of 19th century mathematical physics.BOOK,weblink 86, Dot-Dash to Dot.Com: How Modern Telecommunications Evolved from the Telegraph to the Internet, 978-1-4419-6760-2, Wheen, Andrew, 2010, live,weblink 17 June 2016, Maxwell also introduced the concept of the electromagnetic field in comparison to force lines that Faraday described.WEB,weblink The Electromagnetic Field, University of St Andrews, 30 June 2013, Johnson, Kevin, May 2002, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 27 August 2011, By understanding the propagation of electromagnetism as a field emitted by active particles, Maxwell could advance his work on light. At that time, Maxwell believed that the propagation of light required a medium for the waves, dubbed the luminiferous aether. Over time, the existence of such a medium, permeating all space and yet apparently undetectable by mechanical means, proved impossible to reconcile with experiments such as the Michelson–Morley experiment.JOURNAL, Michelson, Albert Abraham, Morley, Edward Williams, On the Relative Motion of the Earth and the Luminiferous Ether, American Journal of Science, 34, 1887, 333–345, 10.2475/ajs.s3-34.203.333, 203,weblink Moreover, it seemed to require an absolute frame of reference in which the equations were valid, with the distasteful result that the equations changed form for a moving observer. These difficulties inspired Albert Einstein to formulate the theory of special relativity; in the process Einstein dispensed with the requirement of a stationary luminiferous aether.WEB,weblink Ether and the Theory of Relativity, Einstein, Albert, 19 December 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 21 November 2013,

Colour vision

(File:Tartan Ribbon.jpg|thumb|First durable colour photographic image, demonstrated by James Clerk Maxwell in an 1861 lecture)Along with most physicists of the time, Maxwell had a strong interest in psychology. Following in the steps of Isaac Newton and Thomas Young, he was particularly interested in the study of colour vision. From 1855 to 1872, Maxwell published at intervals a series of investigations concerning the perception of colour, colour-blindness, and colour theory, and was awarded the Rumford Medal for "On the Theory of Colour Vision".WEB,weblink Colour Vision, University of St Andrews, Johnson, Kevin, May 2012, 20 May 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 11 November 2012, Isaac Newton had demonstrated, using prisms, that white lights, such as sunlight, are composed of a number of monochromatic components which could then be recombined into white light.BOOK, Newton, Isaac, 1704, Opticks: or a treatise of the reflexions, refractions, inflexions and colours of light,weblink London, Printed for Sam. Smith, and Benj. Walford, Printers to the Royal Society, at the Prince's Arms in St. Paul's Church-yard, live,weblink 24 December 2015, Newton also showed that an orange paint made of yellow and red could look exactly like a monochromatic orange light, although being composed of two monochromatic yellow and red lights. Hence the paradox that puzzled physicists of the time: two complex lights (composed of more than one monochromatic light) could look alike but be physically different, called metameres. Thomas Young later proposed that this paradox could be explained by colours being perceived through a limited number of channels in the eyes, which he proposed to be threefold,JOURNAL, Young, Thomas, Bakerian Lecture: Experiments and calculations relative to physical optics, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1804, 94, 1–16,weblink 1804RSPT...94....1Y, 10.1098/rstl.1804.0001, live,weblink 27 April 2016, the trichromatic colour theory. Maxwell used the recently developed Linear algebra to prove Young's theory. Any monochromatic light stimulating three receptors should be able to be equally stimulated by a set of three different monochromatic lights (in fact, by any set of three different lights). He demonstrated that to be the case,JOURNAL, Maxwell, James Clerk, 1857, XVIII.—Experiments on Colour, as perceived by the Eye, with Remarks on Colour-Blindness,weblink Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Royal Society of Edinburgh, 21, 2, 275–298, 10.1017/S0080456800032117, live,weblink" title="">weblink 22 December 2015, inventing colour matching experiments and Colourimetry.Maxwell was also interested in applying his theory of colour perception, namely in colour photography. Stemming directly from his psychological work on colour perception: if a sum of any three lights could reproduce any perceivable colour, then colour photographs could be produced with a set of three coloured filters. In the course of his 1855 paper, Maxwell proposed that, if three black-and-white photographs of a scene were taken through red, green and blue filters and transparent prints of the images were projected onto a screen using three projectors equipped with similar filters, when superimposed on the screen the result would be perceived by the human eye as a complete reproduction of all the colours in the scene.JOURNAL, Maxwell, James Clerk, 1855, Experiments on Colour, as Perceived by the Eye, with Remarks on Colour-Blindness, Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 21, 2, 275–298, 10.1017/S0080456800032117, (This thought-experiment is described on pages 283–284. The short-wavelength filter is specified as "violet", but during the 19th century "violet" could be used to describe a deep violet-blue such as the colour of cobalt glass.)During an 1861 Royal Institution lecture on colour theory, Maxwell presented the world's first demonstration of colour photography by this principle of three-colour analysis and synthesis. Thomas Sutton, inventor of the single-lens reflex camera, took the picture. He photographed a tartan ribbon three times, through red, green, and blue filters, also making a fourth photograph through a yellow filter, which, according to Maxwell's account, was not used in the demonstration. Because Sutton's photographic plates were insensitive to red and barely sensitive to green, the results of this pioneering experiment were far from perfect. It was remarked in the published account of the lecture that "if the red and green images had been as fully photographed as the blue," it "would have been a truly-coloured image of the riband. By finding photographic materials more sensitive to the less refrangible rays, the representation of the colours of objects might be greatly improved."BOOK,weblink Maxwell, J. Clerk, On the Theory of Three Primary Colours, 445–450, 2011, 1890, The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, 1, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-511-69809-5, 28 March 2013, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 23 August 2011, dmy-all, JOURNAL,weblink The Theory of the Primary Colours, The British Journal of Photography, Maxwell, J. Clerk, 1861, 28 March 2013, Researchers in 1961 concluded that the seemingly impossible partial success of the red-filtered exposure was due to ultraviolet light, which is strongly reflected by some red dyes, not entirely blocked by the red filter used, and within the range of sensitivity of the wet collodion process Sutton employed.JOURNAL, Evans, R., November 1961, Maxwell's Color Photography, Scientific American, 205, 5, 117–128, 10.1038/scientificamerican1161-118, 1961SciAm.205e.118E,

Kinetic theory and thermodynamics

File:Maxwell's demon.svg|thumb|right|Maxwell's demonMaxwell's demonFile:James Clerk Maxwell - Thermodynamic Maxwell surface - sketch 8 July 1875.jpg|thumb|Maxwell's sketch of the three-dimensional thermodynamic surface later named after him (letter to Thomson, 8 July 1875)]]Maxwell also investigated the kinetic theory of gases. Originating with Daniel Bernoulli, this theory was advanced by the successive labours of John Herapath, John James Waterston, James Joule, and particularly Rudolf Clausius, to such an extent as to put its general accuracy beyond a doubt; but it received enormous development from Maxwell, who in this field appeared as an experimenter (on the laws of gaseous friction) as well as a mathematician.WEB,weblink Archives Biographies: James Clerk Maxwell, The Institution of Engineering and Technology, 1 July 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 27 June 2013, Between 1859 and 1866, he developed the theory of the distributions of velocities in particles of a gas, work later generalised by Ludwig Boltzmann.WEB,weblink The Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution, Georgia Institute of Technology, Hill, Melanie, 28 August 2013, live,weblink" title="">weblink 3 January 2014, BOOK,weblink 51, The Corresponding-States Principle and its Practice: Thermodynamic, Transport and Surface Properties of Fluids, 978-0-08-045904-2, Xiang, Hong Wei, 2005, live,weblink 12 May 2016, The formula, called the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution, gives the fraction of gas molecules moving at a specified velocity at any given temperature. In the kinetic theory, temperatures and heat involve only molecular movement. This approach generalised the previously established laws of thermodynamics and explained existing observations and experiments in a better way than had been achieved previously. His work on thermodynamics led him to devise the thought experiment that came to be known as Maxwell's demon, where the second law of thermodynamics is violated by an imaginary being capable of sorting particles by energy.NEWS, Merali, Zeeya, Demonic device converts information to energy,weblink Nature News, 14 November 2010, en, 10.1038/news.2010.606, In 1871 he established Maxwell's thermodynamic relations, which are statements of equality among the second derivatives of the thermodynamic potentials with respect to different thermodynamic variables. In 1874, he constructed a plaster thermodynamic visualisation as a way of exploring phase transitions, based on the American scientist Josiah Willard Gibbs's graphical thermodynamics papers.JOURNAL, West, Thomas G., James Clerk Maxwell, Working in Wet Clay,weblink SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Newsletter, 33, 1, February 1999, 15–17, 10.1145/563666.563671, BOOK,weblink 118, Great Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking, 978-0-19-517324-6, Cropper, William H., Oxford University Press, 2004, live,weblink 3 December 2016,

Control theory

Maxwell published the paper "On governors" in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, vol. 16 (1867–1868).JOURNAL, Maxwell, James Clerk, 1868, On Governors, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 16, 270–283, 10.1098/rspl.1867.0055, 112510, This paper is considered a central paper of the early days of control theory.JOURNAL, Mayr, Otto, Otto Mayr, Maxwell and the Origins of Cybernetics, Isis, 62, 4, 1971, 424–444, 10.1086/350788, Here "governors" refers to the governor or the centrifugal governor used to regulate steam engines.


File:James Clerk Maxwell statue in George Street, Edinburgh.jpg|thumb|upright|The James Clerk Maxwell Monument in Edinburgh, by Alexander StoddartAlexander StoddartHis name is honoured in several ways: {{Clear}}


  • {{Citation | last1=Maxwell | first1=James Clerk | title=A treatise on electricity and magnetism Vol I | url= | publisher=Oxford : Clarendon Press | year = 1873}}
  • {{Citation | last1=Maxwell | first1=James Clerk | title=A treatise on electricity and magnetism Vol II | url= | publisher=Oxford : Clarendon Press | year = 1873}}
  • {{Citation | last1=Maxwell | first1=James Clerk | title=An Elementary treatise on electricity | url= | publisher=Oxford : Clarendon Press | year = 1881}}
  • {{Citation | last1=Maxwell | first1=James Clerk | title=The scientific papers of James Clerk Maxwell Vol I | url= | publisher=Dover Publication | year = 1890}}
  • {{Citation | last1=Maxwell | first1=James Clerk | title=The scientific papers of James Clerk Maxwell Vol II | url= | publisher= Cambridge, University Press | year = 1890}}
  • {{Citation | last1=Maxwell | first1=James Clerk | title=Theory of heat | url= | publisher=Longmans Green Co. | year = 1908 }}See also: BOOK, Maxwell, James Clerk, Theory of Heat,weblink 9th, 2001, Courier Dover Publications, 978-0-486-41735-6, harv,
  • Three of Maxwell's contributions to Encyclopædia Britannica appeared in the Ninth Edition (1878): Atom,weblink Attraction,weblink, and Etherweblink; and three in the Eleventh Edition (1911): Capillary Action,weblink Diagram,weblink and Faraday, Michaelweblink.




  • BOOK, Barrett, Terence William, Grimes, Dale Mills, Advanced Electromagnetism: Foundations, Theory and Applications,weblink 1995, World Scientific, 978-981-02-2095-2, harv,
  • BOOK, Pierre Duhem, Springer, 978-3-319-18515-6, 10.1007/978-3-319-18515-6, 314, Duhem, Pierre Maurice Marie, Alan, Aversa, The Electric Theories of J. Clerk Maxwell, Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, 2015-07-08, 2015,weblink
  • BOOK, Lewis, Campbell, Garnett, William, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell, MacMillan, Edinburgh, 1882,weblink PDF, 2472869, harv,
  • BOOK, Eyges, Leonard, The Classical Electromagnetic Field,weblink 1972, Dover, New York, harv,
  • BOOK, Gardner, Martin, Martin Gardner, The Last Recreations: Hydras, Eggs, and Other Mathematical Mystifications,weblink 2007, Springer-Verlag, 978-0-387-25827-0, harv,
  • BOOK, Glazebrook, R.T., Richard Glazebrook, James Clerk Maxwell and Modern Physics,weblink 1896, 811951455, 811951455, harv,
  • BOOK, Harman, Peter M., The Natural Philosophy of James Clerk Maxwell,weblink 1998, Cambridge University Press, 0-521-00585-X, harv,
  • ODNB, 5624, Maxwell, James, 2004, Harman, Peter M.,
  • BOOK, Mahon, Basil, The Man Who Changed Everything – the Life of James Clerk Maxwell,weblink 2003, Wiley, 0-470-86171-1, harv,
  • BOOK, Porter, Roy, Roy Porter, Hutchinson Dictionary of Scientific Biography,weblink 2000, Hodder Arnold H&S, 978-1-85986-304-6, 59409209,
  • BOOK, Russo, Remigio, Mathematical Problems in Elasticity,weblink 1996, World Scientific, 981-02-2576-8, harv,
  • BOOK, Timoshenko, Stephen, Stephen Timoshenko, 1983, History of Strength of Materials, Courier Dover, 978-0-486-61187-7, harv,
  • BOOK, Tolstoy, Ivan, James Clerk Maxwell: A Biography, 1982, University of Chicago Press, 0-226-80787-8, 8688302, harv,
  • BOOK, Warwick, Andrew, Masters of Theory: Cambridge and the Rise of Mathematical Physics,weblink 2003, University of Chicago Press, 0-226-87374-9, harv,
  • BOOK, Waterston, Charles D, Macmillan Shearer, A., Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002: Biographical Index,weblink II, July 2006, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, 978-0-902198-84-5, harv,
  • BOOK, Wilczek, Frank, Frank Wilczek, A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design, Maxwell I: God's Esthetics. II: The Doors of Perception, 117–164,weblink 2015, Allen Lane, 978-0-7181-9946-3, harv,

External links

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  • WEB,weblink Genealogy and Coat of Arms of James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879), Numericana,
  • WEB,weblink The James Clerk Maxwell Foundation,
  • WEB,weblink Maxwell, James Clerk (Maxwell's last will and testament),,
  • WEB,weblink The Published Scientific Papers and Books of James Clerk Maxwell, Clerk Maxwell Foundation,
  • WEB,weblink Bibliography, Clerk Maxwell Foundation,
  • James Clerk Maxwell, "Experiments on colour as perceived by the Eye, with remarks on colour-blindness". Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. 3, no. 45, pp. 299–301. (digital facsimile from the Linda Hall Library)
  • Maxwell, BBC Radio 4 discussion with Simon Schaffer, Peter Harman & Joanna Haigh (In Our Time, Oct. 2, 2003)
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