James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work


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As he came on stage, three projectors were turned on; a trio of red, green, and blue filtered images superimposed to display the very first full-color photograph in history. The nephew of a Scottish Baronet, Maxwell chose a tartan ribbon for this groundbreaking image:. Under a red filter, the photographic plates picked up a sizable amount of ultraviolet light from a red cloth Evans With problems in the experiment unnoticed, other researchers and inventors were convinced that Maxwell had proved the viability of color photography and were inspired to create properly working techniques.

Maxwell replies:. The rate of change of scientific hypothesis is naturally much more rapid than that of Biblical interpretations, so that if an interpretation is founded on such an hypothesis, it may help to keep the hypothesis above ground long after it ought to be buried and forgotten. Maxwell argued that Christian researchers need both humility and wonder: the humility to recognize that our current explanations can be wrong, and the capacity to wonder at God through the world we explore. We can see both of these qualities in a poem Maxwell wrote while a student at Cambridge. In this student prayer, the speaker prays for wisdom, efficiency, and good quality sleep while exploring the natural world alongside existing scholarly literature.

The speaker begs that his mistakes be stifled gracefully, while his worthwhile ideas join a rising sacrifice of prayer through the ages. Maxwell wrote about his scientific understanding of God in poetry. Do you ever bring together vastly different disciplines in how you think about or worship God?

What in your work makes you want to worship? In what ways do you worship? Work in the lab? Field research? What in your own work reminds you of human limits? References Einstein, A. Maxwell, James Clerk. The life of James Clerk Maxwell : with a selection from his correspondence and occasional writings and a sketch of his contributions to science. He studied electromagnetic interactions quite naturally in the context of an omnipresent aether. Maxwell stood firm that the aether was not a hypothetical entity, but a real one and, in fact, for physicists in the nineteenth century, aether was as real as the rocks supporting the Cavendish Laboratory.

The article is 53 pages long, divided in seven parts. His general equations, which summarised the experimental laws of electromagnetism, provide a complete theoretical basis for the treatment of classical electromagnetic phenomena. Two arenas of physics, which to all outward appearances have nothing in common, were to be united. He proved that the equations of the electromagnetic field could combine into a wave equation and suggested the existence of electromagnetic waves. Calculating the speed of propagation of these waves, he obtained the value of the speed of light, and concluded that it was an electromagnetic wave.

If Maxwell had lived in when the Italian engineer and Nobel Prize in Physics in Guglielmo Marconi made the first transatlantic radio communication across the Atlantic ocean, from Cornwall England to St. Gamma rays, X rays, ultraviolet radiation, visible light, infrared radiation, microwaves and radio and television waves constitute the spectrum of electromagnetic waves, whose existence was predicted by Maxwell years ago. Electromagnetic spectrum with visible light highlighted Wikipedia. Author: Philip Ronan.

It is clear that Maxwell opened the doors for twentieth century physics. This problem was finally solved in when Einstein published his theory of special relativity.

James Clerk Maxwell - Raymond Flood - Bok () | Bokus

Campbell and W. Forbes and B. Flood, M. McCartney and A. This he held to 18G5, and this period of his life is distinguished by the appearance of some of his most important papers. The work was arduous ; the College course extended over nine months of the year ; there were as well evening lectures to artisans as part of his regular duties. His life in London was useful to him in the opportunities it gave him for becoming personally acquainted with Faraday and others.

He also renewed his intimacy with various Cambridge friends. He was at the celebrated Oxford meeting of the British Association in , where he exhibited his colour-box for mixing the colours of the spectrum. In , at the meeting at Aberdeen, he had read to Section A his first paper on the " Dynamical Theory of Gases," published in the Philosophical Magazine for January, The second part of the paper, dealing with the conduction of heat and other phenomena in a gas, was published in July, , after the Oxford meeting.

It contains the account of his colour-box in the form finally adopted most of the important parts of the apparatus are still at the Cavendish Laboratory , and a number of observations by Mrs. Maxwell and himself, which will be more fully described later.

The next year, , is of great importance in the history of electrical science.

Maxwell was not a member. The committee reported at the Cambridge meeting in , and were reappointed with extended duties. Report, Newcastle, Further experiments are described in the report for The work thus begun was consummated during the year by the legalisation throughout the civilised world of a system of electrical units based on those described in these reports. Meanwhile, Maxwell's views on electro-magnetic theory were quietly developing.

Papers on " Physical Lines of Force," which appeared in the Philosophical Magazine during and , contain the germs of his theory expressed at that time, it is true, in a somewhat material form. In the paper published January, , the now well-known relation between the ratio of the electric units and the velocity of light was established, and his correspondence with Fleeming Jenkin and C. Munro about this time relates in part to the experimental verification of this relation. His experiments on this matter were published in the " Philosophical Transactions " for This electrical theory occupied his mind mainly during 18G3 and Hock in, who had taken Balfour Stewart's place during the second scries of experiments on the measurement of resistance.

I have got a theory of 'electric absorption,' i. But the molecular theory of gases was still prominently before his mind. Droop, he says : "Some time ago, when investigating Bernoulli's theory of gases, I was surprised to find that the internal friction of a gas if it depends on the collision of particles should be independent of the density. This seems rather a curious result, and an additional phenomenon, explained by the ' collision of particles ' theory of gases.

So I am working it out again. Several experimental results have turned up lately rather confirmatory than otherwise of that theory. I find the division of them into smaller classes is a great help to me and to them ; but the total oblivion of them for definite intervals is a necessary condition for doing them justice at the proper time. His house in 8, Palace Gardens, Kensington, contained a large garret running the complete length. Kettles were kept on the fire and large quantities of steam allowed to flow into the room.

Maxwell acted as stoker, which was very exhausting work when maintained for several consecu- tive hours.

James Maxwell biography in english

After this the room was kept cool for subsequent experiments by the employment of a considerable amount of ice. Meanwhile he had resigned his London Professor- ship at the end of the Session of , and had been succeeded by Professor W. In he had a serious illness, through which he was nursed with great care by Mrs. His correspondence was considerable, and absorbed much of his time. Much also was given to the study of English literature ; he was ibnd of reading Chaucer, Milton, or Shakespeare aloud to Mrs.

He also read much theological and philosophical literature, and all he read helped only to strengthen that firm faith in the fundamentals of Christianity in which he lived and died. In 1S07 he and Mrs. Maxwell paid a visit to Italy, which was a source of great pleasure to both. His chief scientific work was the preparation of his ' Electricity and Magnetism," which did not appear till ; the time was in the main one of quiet thought and preparation for his next great task, the foundation of the School of Physics in Cambridge.

In the principalship of the United College in the University of St. Andrews was vacant by the resignation of Forbes, and Maxwell was invited by several of the professors to stand. He, however, declined to submit his name to the Crown. He examined in the Mathematical Tripos in and , and again in and The regulations for the Tripos had been in force practically unchanged since , and it was felt by many that the range of subjects included was not sufficiently extensive, and that changes were urgently needed if Cambridge were to retain its position as the centre of mathematical teaching.

Accordingly in June, , a new plan of examina- tions was sanctioned by the Senate to come into force in January, , and these various subjects were explicitly includod. It was said that some of the subjects most in vogue had but little interest for the present generation, and loud complaints began to be heard that while such branches of knowledge as Heat, Electri- city, and Magnetism were left out of the Tripos examination, the candidates were wasting their time and energy upon mathematical trifles barren of scientific interest and of practical results.

Into the movement for reform Maxwell entered warmly. By his questions in 18GG, and subsequent years, he infused new life into the examination ; he took an active part in drafting the new scheme introduced in 1S73 ; but most of all by his writings he exerted a powerful influence on the younger members of the University, and was largely instrumental in bringing about the change whieh h;is been now effected. Cookson, Master of St. Peter's College, took an active part in the work of the Syndicate. Phear, and Dr. Routh were among the members.

Maxwell himself was in Cambridge that winter, as Examiner for the Tripos, and his work as Moderator and Examiner in the two previous years had done much to show the necessity of alterations and to indicate the direction which changes should take. They called attention to the Report of the Royal Commis- sion of The Commissioners had " prominently urged the importance of cultivating a knowledge of the great branches of Experimental Physics in the University"; and in page of their Report, after commending the manner in which the subject of Physical Optics is studied in the University, and pointing out that " there is, perhaps, no public institu- tion where it is better represented or prosecuted with more zeal and success in the way of original research," they had stated that " no reason can be assigned why other great branches of Natural Science should not become equally objects of attention, or why Cambridge should not become a great school of physical and experimental, as it is already of mathematical and classical, instruction.

The Syndicate have limited their attention almost entirely to the question of providing public instruction in Heat, Electricity and Magnetism. They recognise the importance and advantage of tutorial instruction in these subjects in the several colleges, but they are also alive to the great impulse given to studies of this kind, and to the large amount of additional training Avhich students may receive through the instruction of a public Professor, and by knowledge gained in a well-appointed laboratory.

As Experimental Physics may fairly be considered to come within the province of one or more of the above- mentioned Professors, the Syndicate have considered whether now or at some future time some arrange- ment might not be made to secure the effective teaching of this branch of science, without having resort to the services of an additional Professor. They are, however, of opinion that such an arrangement cannot be made at the present time, and that the exigencies of the case may be best met by founding a new professorship which shall terminate with the tenure of office of the Professor first elected.

The services of a man of the highest attainments in science, devoting his life to public teaching as such Professor, and engaged in original research, Avould be of incalculable benefit to the University. It is estimated that 5, would cover the cost of the laboratory, and 1, the necessary apparatus. Pro- vision is also made for a demonstrator and a laboratory assistant, and the Report closes with a recommenda- tion that a special Syndicate of Finance should be appointed to consider the means of raising the funds.

The Professors in their Report to the Syndicate point out that teaching in Experimental Physics is needed for the Mathematical Tripos, the Natural Sciences Tripos, certain Special examinations, and the first examination for the degree of M. It appeared to them clear that there was work for a new Professor. Meanwhile they contented them- selves with recommending means for raising an annual stipend of for the professor, demonstrator, and assistant, and a capital sum of 5,, or thereabouts, for the expenses of a building. The Syndicate's Report was issued in an amended form in the May term of , and before any decision was taken on it the Vice-Chancellor, Dr.

A Grace establishing a Professorship of Experimental Physics was confirmed by the Senate February 9th, , and March 8th was fixed for the election. Meanwhile who was to be Professor? Sir W. Thomson's name had been mentioned, but he, it was known, would not accept the post. Maxwell was then applied to, and at first he was unwilling to leave Glenlair. Professor Stokes, the Hon. Blore of Trinity, and others wrote to him. Thomson, it seems, has definitely declined.

There is no one here in the least fit for the post. What is wanted by most who know anything about it is not so much a lecturer as a mathematician who has actual experience in experimenting, and who might direct the energies of the younger Fellows and bachelors into a proper channel. There must be many who would be willing to work under a competent man, and who, while learning themselves, would materially assist him. I hope you may be induced to come ; if not, I don't know who it is to be.

Do not trouble to answer me about this, as I believe others have written to you about it. Blore wrote to the Electoral Roll : " I am authorised to give notice that Mr. John sic Clerk Maxwell, F. One wants popular lectures, and the other cares more for experimental work. I think there should be a gradation popular lectures and rough experiments for the masses ; real experiments for real students; and laborious experiments for first-rate men like Trotter and Stuart and Strutt.

Munro, dated March 15th, , he writes: "The Experimental Physics at Cambridge is not built yet, but we are going to try. The desideratum is to set a Don and a Freshman to observe and register say the vibrations of a magnet together, or the Don to turn a watch and the Freshman to observe and govern him. A few quotations will show the spirit in which he approached his task. We may either employ the experiments to illustrate the phenomena of a particular branch of Physics, or we may make some physical research in order to exemplify a particular experimental method.

In the order of time, we should begin, in the Lecture P,oom, with a course of lectures on some branch of Physics aided by experiments of illustration, and conclude, in the Laboratory, with a course of experiments of research. GO throw light upon some scientific idea so that the student may be enabled to grasp it. The circumstances of the experiment are so arranged that the phenomenon which we wish to observe or to exhibit is brought into prominence, instead of being obscured and entangled among other phenomena, as it is when it occurs in the ordinary course of nature.

To exhibit illustra- tive experiments, to encourage others to make them, and to cultivate in every way the ideas on which they throw light, forms an important part of our duty. The simpler the materials of an illustrative experiment, and the more familiar they are to the student, the more thoroughly is he likely to acquire the idea which it is meant to illustrate. The educa- tional value of such experiments is often inversely proportional to the complexity of the apparatus.

The student who uses home-made apparatus, which is always going wrong, often learns more than one who has the use of carefully adjusted instruments, to which he is apt to trust, and which he dares not take to pieces. Science appears to us with a very different aspect after we have found out tb. We shall therefore first consider the relation in which we stand to those mathematical studies which have so long flourished among us, which deal with our own subjects, and which differ from our experimental studios only in the mode in which they are presented to the mind.

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When the ideas, after entering through different gateways, effect a junction in the citadel of the mind, the position they occupy becomes impregnable. Opticians tell us that the mental combination of the views of an object which we obtain from stations no further apart than our two eyes is sufficient to produce in our minds an impression of the solidity of the object seen ; and we find that this im- pression is produced even when we are aware that we are really looking at two flat pictures placed in a stereoscope.

It is therefore natural to expect that the knowledge of physical science obtained by the combined use of mathematical analysis and experimental research will be of a more solid, available, and enduring kind than that possessed by the mere mathe- matician or the mere experimenter. Will not their attendance at the Laboratory count not merely as time withdrawn from their more legitimate studies, but as the introduction of a disturbing element, tainting their mathe- matical conceptions with material imagery, and sapping their faith in the formulae of the text-books?

Besides this, we have already heard complaints of the undue extension of our studies, and of the strain put upon our quest ionists by the weight of learning which they try to carry with them into the Senate- House. If we now ask them to get up their subjects not only by books and writing, but at the same time by observation and manipulation, will they not break down altogether? The Physical Laboratory, we are told, may perhaps be useful to those who are going out in Natural Science , and who do not take in Mathematics, but to attempt to combine both kinds of study during the time of residence at the University is more than one mind can bear.

Many of us have already overcome the initial difficulties of mathe- matical training. As soon as we can read scales, observe times, focus telescopes, and so on, this kind of work ceases to require any great mental effort. We may, perhaps, tire our eyes arid weary our backs, but we do not greatly fatigue our minds. This, however, is the price we have to pay for new ideas. When, by a repetition of efforts of this kind, we have more fully developed the scientific faculty, the exercise of this faculty in detecting scientific principles in nature, and in directing practice by theory, is no longer irk- some, but becomes an unfailing source of enjoyment, to which we return so often that at last even our careless thoughts begin to run in a scientific channel.

It will, I think, be a result worthy of our University, and more likely to bo accomplished here than in any private laboratory, if, by the free and full discussion of the relative value of different scientific procedures, we succeed in forming a school of scientific criticism and in assisting the development of the doctrine of method.

Hence, though some of us may, I hope, see reason to make the pursuit of science the main business of our lives, it must be one of our most constant aims to maintain a living connexion between our work and the other liberal studies of Cambridge, whether literary, philological, historical, or philosophical.

But surely a University is the very place where we should be able to overcome this tendency of men to become, as it were, granulated into small worlds, which are all the more worldly for their very smallness 1 We lose the advantage of having men of varied pursuits collected into one body if we do not endeavour to imbibn some of the spirit even of those whose special branch of learning is different from our own. BUT the laboratory was not yet built. A Syndicate, of which Maxwell was a member, was appointed to consider the question of a site, to take professional advice, and to obtain plans and estimates.

Professor Maxwell and Mr. Trotter visited various laboratories at home and abroad for the purpose of ascertaining the best arrangements. Fawcett was appointed architect ; the tender of Mr. In the meantime Maxwell began to lecture, finding a home where he could. In the correspondence previous to this time it was spoken of as the Devonshire Laboratory.

In their letter of thanks to the Duke of Devonshire the University write : "Unde vero conventius poterat illis artibus succurri quam e tua domo quae in ipsis jam pridem inclaruerat. Notum est Henricum Cavendish quern secutus est Coulombius priiiium ita docuisse, quse sit vis electrica ut earn numerornm modulis illustraret ; adhibitis rationibus quas hodie veras esse constat.

To this the Chancellor replied, after re- ferring to the work of Henry Cavendish : " Quod pono in officina ipsa nuncupanda nonien ejus com- memorare dignati sitis, id grato animo accepi. In March, , a Demonstratorship of Physics had been established, and Mr. Garnett of St. John's College was appointed.

Work began in the laboratory in October, At first the number of students was small. Only seventeen names appear in the Natural Sciences Triposf list for , and few of those did Physics. In , the Jubilee year, as Proctor at the same time I hold the oflice of Demonstrator it was my duty to accompany the Chancellor and other officers to Windsor to present an address from the University to Her Majesty.

I was introduced to the Chancellor at Paddington, and he at once began to question me closely about the progress of the laboratory, the number of students, and the work beiny; done there, showing himself fully acquainted with recent progress. One of the weaknesses of our Cambridge plan has been the divorce between Mathematics and experimental work, encouraged by our system of examinations. Experimental knowledge is supposed not to be needed for the Mathematical Tripos ; the Mathematics permitted in the Natural Sciences Tripos are very simple ; thus it came about that few men while reading for the Mathematical Tripos attended the laboratory, and this unfortunate result was intensified by the action of the University in , when the regulations for the Mathematical Tripos were again altered.

The first experiments I can recollect related to the measurement of electrical resistance. Thus the number of men encouraged to read 1'hysics was very limited. This pernicious system was altered in the regulations at present in force, which came into action in Part I. Lord Rayleigh had, during the examination, set an easy question which I failed to do for want of some slight experimental knowledge, and the first few words of Maxwell's talk showed me the solution.

I did not attend his lectures regularly they were given, I think, at an hour which I was obliged to devote to teaching ; besides, there was his book, the " Electricity and Magnetism," into which I had just dipped before the Tripos, to work at. Chrystal and Saunder were then busy at their verification of Ohm's law. They were using a number of the Thomson form of tray J aniell's cells, and Maxwell was anxious for tests of various kinds to be made on these cells ; these I undertook, and spent some time over various simple measurements on them.

He then set me to work at some of the properties of a stratified dielectric, consisting, if I remember rightly, of sheets of paraffin paper and mica. There were no regular classes and no set drill of demonstrations arranged for examination purposes ; these came later. In Max- well's time those who wished to work had the use of the laboratory and assistance and help from him, but they were left pretty riiuch to themselves to find out about the apparatus and the best methods of using it. Rather later than this Schuster came and did some of his spectroscope work. My own tastes lay in the direction of optics.

Maxwell was anxious that I should investigate the properties of certain crystals. I think they were the chlorate of potash crystals, about which Stokes and Rayleigh have since written ; but these crystals were to be grown, a slow process which would, he supposed, take years ; and as I wished to produce a dissertation for the Trinity Fellowship examination in , that work had to be laid aside.

Eventually I selected as a subject the form of the wave surface in a biaxial crystal, and set to work in a room assigned to me. The Professor used to come in on most days to see how I was getting on. Generally he brought his dog, which sometimes was shut up in the next room while he went to college. Dogs were not allowed in college, and Maxwell had an amusing way of describing how Toby once wandered into Trinity, and by some doggish instinct discovered immediately, to his intense amazement, that he was in a place where no dogs had been since the college was.

Toby was not always quiet in his master's absence, and his presence in the next room was some- what disturbing. When difficulties occurred Maxwell was always ready to listen. Often the answer did not come at once, but it always did come after a little time. What you have said will take some time to soak through, but we will see about it.

For the next year and a half I was working regularly at the laboratory and saw him almost daily during term time. Of these last years there really is but little to tell. His own scientific work went on. The " Electricity and Magnetism " was written mostly at Ulonlair. I lind nine sheets in thirteen weeks is their average. Tait gives me great help in detecting absurdities. I am getting converted to quaternions, and have put some in my book.

The Text-book of Heat was written during the same period, while " Matter and Motion," " a small book on a great subject," was published in Many of his shorter papers were written about the same time. The ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica was being published, and Professor Baynes had enlisted his aid in the work. He also wrote a number of papers for Nature.

Some of these are reviews of books or accounts of scientific men, such as the notices of Faraday and Helmholtz, which appeared with their portraits ; others again are original contributions to science. Among the latter many have reference to the molecular constitution of bodies. Two lectures the first on " Molecules," delivered before the British Association at Bradford in ; the second on the " Dynamical Evidence of the Molecular Constitution of Bodies," delivered before the Chemical Society in were of special importance.

The closing sentences of the first lecture have been often quoted. They run as follow : " In the heavens we discover by their light, and by their light alone, stars so distant from each other that no material thing can ever have passed from one to another ; and yet this light, which is to us the sole evidence of the existence of these distant worlds, tells us also that each of them is built up of molecules of the same kinds as those which we find on earth.

A molecule of hydrogen, for example, whether in Sirius or in Arcturus, executes its vibrations in precisely the same time. We are therefore unable to ascribe cither the existence of the molecules or the identity of their properties to any of the causes which we call natural. We have reached the utmost limits of our thinking faculties when we have admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and self-existent, it must have been created. We have here a particular distribution of matter a collocation, to use the expression of Dr.

Chalmers, of things which we have no difficulty in imagining to have been arranged otherwise. The same is the case with respect to the size of the earth, from which the standard of what is called the metrical system has been derived. But these astronomical and terrestrial magnitudes are far inferior in scientific importance to that most fundamental of all standards which forms the base of the molecular system.

Natural causes, as we know, are at work which tend to modify, if they do not at length destroy, all the arrangements and dimensions of the earth and the whole solar system. But though in the course of ages catastrophes have occurred and may yet occur in the heavens, though ancient systems may be dissolved and new systems evolved out of their ruins, the molecules out of which these systems are built the foundation stones of the material universe remain unbroken and unworn. They continue this day as they were created perfect in number and measure and weight; and from the ineffaceable characters impressed on them we may learn that those aspira- tions after accuracy in measurement, and justice in action, which we reckon among our noblest attributes as men, are ours because they are essential constituents of the image of Him who in the beginning created, not only the heaven and the earth, but the materials of which heaven and earth consist.

Munro, and at a later time by Clifford in one of his essays. Munro's criticism. In the British Association met at Belfast, under the presidency of Tyndall. Maxwell was pre- sent, and published afterwards in Blackwood's Maga- zine an amusing paraphrase of the president's address. This, with some other verses written at about the same time, may be quoted here.

Professor Campbell has collected a number of verses written by Maxwell at various times, which illustrate in an admirable manner both the grave and the gay side of his character. Xotes of the President's Address.

James Clerk Maxwell

IN the very beginnings of science, the parsons, who managed things then, Being handy with hammer and chisel, made gods in the likenoss of men; Till commerce arose, and at length some men of exceptional power Supplanted both demons and gods by the atoms, which last to this hour. Yet they did not abolish the gods, but they sent them well out of the way, With the rarest of nectar to drink, and blue- fields of nothing to sway.

From nothing comes nothing, they told us naught happens by chance, but by fate ; There is nothing but atoms and void, all else is mere whims out of date! Then why should a man currv favour with beings who cannot exist, To compass some petty promotion in nebulous kingdoms of mist? But not by the rays of the sun, nor the glittering shafts of the day, Must the fear of the gods be dispelled, but by words, and their wonderful play. There is nobody here, I should say, has felt true indignation at all, Till an indignation meeting is held in the Ulster Hall ; Then gathers the wave of emotion, then noble feelings arise, Till you all pass a resolution which takes every man by surprise.

Thus the pure elementary atom, the unit of mass and of thought, By force of mere juxtaposition to life and sensation is brought ; So, do wn through untold generations, transmission of structureless germs Enables our race to inherit the thoughts of beasts, fishes, and worms. We honour our fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers too; But how shall wo honour the vista of ancestors now in our view?

First, then, lot us honour the atom, so lively, so wise, and so small ; The atornists next let us praise, Epicurus, Lucretius, and all. Let us damn with faint praise Bishop Butler, in whom many atoms combined To form that remarkable structure it pleased him to call his mind. Last, praise we the noble body to which, for the time, we belong, Ere yet the swift whirl of the atoms has hurried us, ruthless, along, The British Association like Leviathan worshipped by Hobbes, The incarnation of wisdom, built up of our witless nobs, Which will carry on endless discussions when I, and probably you, Have melted in infinite azure in English, till all is blue.

Plateau, Professeur a 1'Uuiversite de Gaud. Belfast, AT quite uncertain times and places, The atoms left their heavenly path, And by fortuitous embraces Engendered all that being hath. And though they seem to cling together, And form " associations " here, Yet, soon or late, they burst their tether, And through the depths of space career.

Thus, by a swift metamorphosis, Wisdom turns wit, and science joke, Nonsense is incense to our noses, For when Red Lions speak they smoke. Hail, Nonsense! What combinations of ideas Nonsense alone can wisely form! What sage has half the power that she has, To take the towers of Truth by storm ': Yield, then, ye rules of rigid reason! Dissolve, thou too, too solid sense! Melt into nonsense for a season, Then in some nobler form condense. Soon, all too soon, the chilly morning This flow of soul will crystallise ; Then those who Nonsense now are scorning May learn, too late, where wisdom lies.

What honour can ye pay to him, whose mind To that which lies beyond hath penetrated? The symbols he hath formed shall sound his praise, And lead him on through unimagined ways To conquests new, in worlds not yet created. First, ye Determinants! Ye powers of the n th roots of 1! And you, ye undevelopable scrolls! Above the host wave your emblazoned rolls, Ruled for the record of his bright inventions. Ye cubic surfaces! March on, symbolic host! There pause, until by Dickinson depicted, In two dimensions, we the form may trace Of him whose soul, too large for vulgar space, In n dimensions flourished unrestricted.

Gin a body meet a body Altogether free, How they travel afterwards Wo do not always see. Ilka problem has its method By analytics high ; For me, I ken na anc o' them, But what the waur am I? Another task, which occupied much time, from to , was the edition of the works of Henry Cavendish. Cavendish, who was great-uncle to the Chancellor, had published only two electrical papers, but he had left some twenty packets of manuscript on Mathematical and Experimental Electricity. These were placed in Maxwell's hands in by the Duke of Devonshire.

Niven, in his preface to the collected papers dealing with this book, writes thus : "This work, published in , has had the effect of increasing the reputation of Cavendish, disclosing as it does the unsuspected advances which that acute physicist had made in the Theory of Electricity, especially in the measure- ment of electrical quantities. The work is enriched by a variety of valuable notes, in which Cavendish's views and results are examined by the light of modern theory and methods.

Especially valuable are the methods applied to the determination of the electrical capacities of conductors and condensers, a subject in which Cavendish himself showed con- siderable skill both of a mathematical and experimental character. He would undertake the most laborious researches in order to clear up a difficulty which no one but himself could appreciate or was even aware of, and we cannot doubt that the result of his enquiries, when successful, gave him a certain degree of satisfaction. But it did not excite in him that desire to communicate the discovery to others, which in the case of ordinary men of science generally ensures the publica- tion of their results.

How completely these researches of Cavendish remained unknown to other men of science is shown by the external history of electricity. But Maxwell entered upon this undertaking with the ut- most enthusiasm, and succeeded in identifying himself with Cavendish's methods. He showed that Cavendish had really anticipated several of the discoveries in electrical science which have been made since his time.

Cavendish was the first to form the conception of and to measure Electrostatic Capacity and Specific Inductive Capacity ; he also anticipated Ohm's law. Maxwell had a serious and prolonged illness, and Maxwell's work was much increased by his duties as sick nurse. About this time some of those who had been "Apostles" in revived the habit of meeting together for discussion.

The club, which included Professors Lightfoot, Hort and Westcott, was chris- tened the " Eranus," and three of Maxwell's contribu- tions to it have been preserved and are printed by Professor Campbell. After the Cavendish papers were finished, Max- well had more time for his own original researches, and two important papers were published in In the previous year he had delivered the Rede lecture on " The Tele- phone.

He left Cambridge as usual in June, hoping that he would quickly recover at Glenlair, but he grew worse instead. In October he was told by Dr. Sanders of Edinburgh that he had not a month to live. He returned to Cambridge in order to be under the care of Dr. His one care during his last illness was for those whom he left behind.

Maxwell was an invalid dependent on him for everything, and the thought of her helplessness was the one thing which in these last days troubled him. A funeral service took place in the chapel at Trinity College, and afterwards his remains were con- veyed to Scotland and interred in the family burying- place at Corsock, Kirkcudbright. A memorial edition of his works was issued by the Cambridge University Press in A portrait by Lowes Dickinson hangs in the hall of Trinity College, and there is a bust by Boehm in the laboratory. After his death Mrs. Maxwell gave his scientific library to the Cavendish Laboratory, and on her death she left a sum of about 6, to found a scholarship in Physics, to be held at the laboratory.

The preceding pages contain some account of Clerk Maxwell's life as a man of science. His character had other sides, and any life of him would be incomplete without some brief reference to these. His letters to his wife and to other intimate friends show throughout his life the depth of his religious convictions. The high purpose evidenced in the paper given to the present Dean of Canterbury when leaving Cambridge, animated him continually, and appears from time to time in his writings. The rate of change of scientific hypothesis is naturally much more rapid than that of Biblical interpre- tations, so that if an interpretation is founded on such an hypothesis, it may help to keep the hypothesis above ground long after it ought to be buried and forgotten.

But I think that the results which each man arrives at in his attempts to harmonise his science with his Christianity ought not to be regarded as having any significance except to the man himself, and to him only for a time, and should not receive the stamp of a society. Garnett have given us the evidence of those who were with him in his last days, as to the strength of his own faith.

On his death bed he said that he had been occupied in trying to gain truth ; that it is but little of truth that man can acquire, but it is something to know in whom we have believed. FIFTEEN years only have passed since the death of Clerk Maxwell, and it is almost too soon to hope to form a correct estimate of the value of his work and its relation to that of others who have laboured in the same field. Thus Nivcn, at the close of his obituary notice in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, says : " It is seldom that the faculties of invention and exposi- tion, the attachment to physical science and capa- bility of developing it mathematically, have been found existing in one mind to the same degree.

James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work
James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work
James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work
James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work
James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work
James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on his Life and Work

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