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 in 1859 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 section of Saturn's rings was later named the Maxwell Gap.
Maxwell Montes, a mountain range on the planet Venus, was also named in his honor.
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.”