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About the Foundation

The James Clerk Maxwell Foundation (Registered Charity SC015003) has essentially two functions, one charitable and the other commemorative. Its general purposes are outlined in the first two items of its Deed of Declaration of Trust, dated 12 January 1977 and revised in 2015 :

“1. To promote, encourage and advance the study of, research into and the dissemination of knowledge relating to physics, electronic engineering and physical chemistry in all their aspects.

  2. To commemorate, by publishing or contributing towards or promoting the publication in any way (but not with a view to profit) of scientific or educational books, films, papers, essays, monographs and/or lectures on or relating to physics and chemistry or any aspect thereof, the said James Clerk Maxwell and any other person or persons who may in the opinion of the Trustees have contributed significantly to the advancement of physics or chemistry."

The charitable function of the Foundation was its only concern during the years 1977-93. Grants were made to senior scientists (professors) to attend meetings abroad and to junior scientists (graduates and undergraduates) to assist their studies or researches. As the Foundation is a modest one, these grants were not large, but even so were often essential for the purposes of the recipients. With the 1993 acquisition of the house in which Clerk Maxwell was born, in the New Town of Edinburgh, the work of the Foundation entered a new phase in which its commemorative function predominated.

The foundation supports an annual set of charitable donations etc at: The Edinburgh Academy prize, The University of Edinburgh studentship, McKinnon McNeil studentship, two Mathematics prizes, Philosophical Magazine prize and it supports an Edinburgh International Science Festival lecture.

A bronze plaque in the hallway of the house provides a brief history of the Foundation, it reads:

Instituted to promote education in the physical sciences
Was created in 1977 by the initiative and generosity of
Professor of Chemistry at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y., U.S.A.
These premises were acquired by the foundation in 1993
Owing largely to the efforts of its director of development
Who enlisted the help of many donors
Both institutional and private
To further the educational aims of the foundation
Premier Scottish Scientist

Note: The James Clerk Maxwell Foundation was founded and initially funded by a native of Scotland, who was a resident of the United States.  The Foundation is governed and administered according to the Law of Scotland, and is recognised as a Scottish Charity by HM Revenue and Customs  (Registered Charity SC015003).


This Latin epigraph (displayed in our conference room) may be translated as:
From this home of his birth, his name is now widespread across the entire terrestrial globe, and even to the stars.
The latter phrase is to be taken almost literally; it is based on the fact that Maxwell's name is attached not only to a crater on the Moon but also to the highest region on the surface of the planet Venus, the Maxwell Montes.  This is a singular honour. Quoting from The Magellan Venus Explorers' Guide (NASA publication 1990): "The International Astronomical Union, the governing body for planetary and satellite nomenclature, adopted a theme in keeping with the age-old feminine mystique of Venus, features would be named for women, both mythological and real . . . three previously adopted names were retained, Alpha and Beta the first names applied to Venusian features . . . Maxwell was also retained. . . James Clerk Maxwell is thus the only man honored with a feature name [on Venus]."

The epigraph contrasts the tiny world of the Maxwell home and the enormous worlds of the globe and planets; it reflects the contrast between the baby whose life started there and the great man he became.  To those standing in the very birthplace these words may well bring thoughts of the mysteries of birth, growth, and human genius.

Donations will be gratefully acknowledged if sent to:

The Treasurer
James Clerk Maxwell Foundation
14 India Street
Edinburgh EH3 6EZ

For all enquiries, or to request covenant and gift forms, please write to us at this address, or contact us via email at:

Higgs, Ritchie

Professor Peter Higgs (left) with Professor David Ritchie

Honorary Positions

Professor Peter Higgs CH FRS FRSE Nobel Prize in Physics 2013 (Honorary Patron)

Professor David S. Ritchie MA FRMetS FRSE (Honorary President)


Dr Alan Walker, MBE D.hc FInstP BSc ARCS  (Chair)

Mrs Catherine M. Booth, MA PgDip DipMolSci
Professor Peter M. Grant, OBE HonDEng FIET LFIEEE FREng FRSE (Joint Secretaries)

Dr John W. Arthur, BSc PhD FInstP FIET SMIEE FREng FRSE
Professor Dugald B Duncan, BSc PhD FIMA
Dr Isobel Falconer, BSc MA PhD
David O. Forfar, MA FFA MMath DipStats FSS FIMA CMath FRSE
Professor T. Alastair Gillespie, BA PhD HonDSc FRSE
Professor Roland A Paxton, MBE MSc PhD HonDEng CEng FICE AMCST FRSE
Dr James Rautio, BSEE MS PhD FIEEE
Professor Alan C. Shotter, BSc ARCS DPhil CPhys FInstP FRSE
Benjamin Thomson, CBE BSc FRSE


Professor Sydney Ross PhD HonDSc CorrFRSE (Founder) passed away in December 2013, see obituary in the Spring 2014 Newsletter

Trustees Annual Report 2019

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