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James Clerk Maxwell

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Professor James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), M.A, F.R.S.

James Clerk Maxwell FRS FRSE (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879) was a Scottish scientist in the field of mathematical physics. His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism have been called the "second great unification in physics" after the first one realised by Isaac Newton

Graduated in 1854 as Second Wrangler.

1871 Maxwell became the first professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge.

It was the great James Clerk Maxwell who expressed the following opinion of the labours of Joule: " There are only a few men who have stood in a similar position and who have been urged by the love of some truth, which they were confident was to be found, though its form was as yet undefined, to devote themselves to minute observations and patient manual and mental toil in order to bring their thoughts into exact accordance with things as they are."[1]

Died 1879


1879 Obituary [2]



1879 Obituary [3]



1879 Obituary

"WE extremely regret to announce the death of Professor James Clerk Maxwell, M.A., F.R.S., which took place on Wednesday, November 5th, at his residence in Scroope-terrace, Cambridge, after a few weeks' illness. Mr. Maxwell graduated as second Wrangler in 1834. Mr. Routh was senior Wrangler, but in the contest for Smith's prize these two gentlemen were bracketted equal. His College- Trinity- elected him to a Fellowship. He afterwards became Professor of Natural Philosophy at Mareschal College, Aberdeen. In 1871, upon the establishment of the Chair of Experimental Physics at Cambridge, and the erection of the Cavendish Laboratory for the prosecution of Physical research, he was elected the first professor. His life has been exceedingly active, and his original publications are numerous. His latest work has been the editing of the "Cavendish Papers," and the volume has only been issued by the Cambridge Press during the past month.

His "Electricity and Magnetism," published six or seven years ago by Messrs. Macmillan, and reviewed by us at the time, is the most important work on the subject in this or any other language. One of the ablest mathematicians, and at the same time an experimentalist or the present type, he not only wrote well on the mathematical portion of the subject, but his clear-sighted reasoning pointed out innumerable fields of discovery. Some of these have since been slightly investigated by, W. J. E. H. Gordon, B.A., secretary of the British Association, Profs. Ayrton and Perry, and others, but the work indicated by the late Professor is enormous. Besides electrical work, in conjunction with Helmholtz, Thomson, and others he studied deeply molecular phenomena, and his papers on this subject are well known and appreciated by all scientific men. An elementary work on heat, published in Longman's scientific series, shows how completely he could adapt his writing to the requirements of his reader. Whilst his book on electricity is directed to supply the wants of the best mathematicians, the work on heat can and should be read by everybody who desires a knowledge of the subject. We cannot refer to his isolated papers read before the Royal Society, the Mathematical Society, &c., his lectures before tho British Association, the Chemical Society, &c., his contributions to Nature, the Electrician, and numerous other publications.

Not only did he write papers wholly technical, but like other able men, he delighted to amuse himself and his readers with poetry, delicate airy verses, treating grave scientific questions with an inimitable originality. During the vacations, free from university life, he usually retired to Scotland, where, we believe, he had a small estate. His loss leaves a void in the scientific world which, for the moment it seems difficult to fill, and there can be no doubt that the death of Maxwell following so closely on that of Clifford, has considerably weakened the ranks of British science."


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