James Maxwell


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  • James Maxwell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on the 13th of June 1831 and died on the 5th of November 1879.

  • He produced a set of equations, known as ‘Maxwell’s Equations’ that explain the properties of magnetic and electric fields and help show that light is an electromagnetic wave.

  • His impressive work was described in papers such as ‘On Physical Lines of Force’, ‘A Dynamic Theory of the Electromagnetic Field’ and ‘A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism’.

  • Maxwell’s contributions played an important role in the advances made in 20th century physics and his work was often admired by fellow physicist Albert Einstein.

  • Maxwell attended Edinburgh University from 1847 to 1850. He also spent a large amount of time at his home studying and undertaking various experiments.


  • After his time at Edinburgh University, Maxwell moved on to Cambridge University where he remained from 1850 to 1856. He further developed his mathematical skills and other ideas before accepting a professorship at Aberdeen University in 1856.

  • Maxwell was awarded a prize in1859 for his essay ‘On the Stability of Saturn's Rings’, which described the nature of Saturn’s rings as numerous small particles rather than a solid or fluid ring.

  • A large amount of Maxwell’s research was based on the work of Michael Faraday, and although Maxwell was 40 years younger, the two meet each other on many occasions.

  • Maxwell also made numerous contributions in the fields of color analysis, kinetic theory and thermodynamics. He is even attributed with creating the first true color photograph.

  • Famous James Maxwell quotes include: “Aye, I suppose I could stay up that late.” – Said after being informed of a compulsory 6 a.m. church service at Cambridge University.

  • “In every branch of knowledge the progress is proportional to the amount of facts on which to build, and therefore to the facility of obtaining data.”




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