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Who was James Clerk Maxwell?

Maxwell Framed PhotoJames Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) was one of the greatest scientists who have ever lived.  To him we owe the most significant discovery of our age - the theory of electromagnetism.  He is rightly acclaimed as the father of modern physics. He also made fundamental contributions to mathematics, astronomy and engineering.

Albert Einstein said: "The special theory of relativity owes its origins to Maxwell's equations of the electromagnetic field."
Einstein also said: "Since Maxwell's time, physical reality has been thought of as represented by continuous fields, and not capable of any mechanical interpretation.  This change in the conception of reality is the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton"

Ivan Tolstoy, in his biography of Maxwell, wrote: “Maxwell's importance in the history of scientific thought is comparable to Einstein’s (whom he inspired) and to Newton’s (whose influence he curtailed)”

Maxwell said, in 'A Dynamic Theory of the Electro-Magnetic Field' given to the Royal Society in 1864: “We have strong reason to conclude that light itself - including radiant heat and other radiation, if any - is an electromagnetic disturbance in the form of waves propagated through the electro-magnetic field according to electro-magnetic laws.”

On which Professor R V Jones commented: “This paper is the first pointer to the existence of radiation other than light and heat, and ranks as one of the greatest leaps ever achieved in human thought.”

"He achieved greatness unequalled"  Max Planck

"From a long view of the history of mankind - seen from, say, ten thousand years from now - there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics"  Richard P Feynman

Learn more about Maxwell and his impact on our world

One of the surprising things about about Maxwell is that, as well as being a great scientist, he was also a poet!  If you would like to explore this aspect of his character then please download James C Rautio’s digitized version of the Campbell and Garnet biography which includes a whole section on his poems.

Also in this section of the website we have a page on Parton in Galloway, JCM’s last resting place.

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