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James Clerk Maxwell

Scottish physicist
James Clerk Maxwell

James Clerk Maxwell (born 13 June 1831 in Edinburgh – died 5 November 1879) was a Scottish mathematician, physicist and discoverer of Maxwell's equations.

Maxwell grew up in a rich religious family. In 1845, when he was only 14, he wrote a paper describing a way of drawing mathematical curves with a piece of string. In 1847 he started studying mathematics at the University of Edinburgh. In 1850 Maxwell changed to Peterhouse and then Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. He won prizes from the university for his work and was given his degree in 1854. From 1855 to 1872 he did research on colour blindness.

In 1856 Maxwell was made a professor of 'Natural Philosophy' (which is what science was called then) at Marischal College, Aberdeen. He worked there until the two colleges in Aberdeen joined together in 1860 and he lost his job. He then became a professor at King's College London. In 1861, Maxwell was made a member of the Royal Society, a group of important scientists. In 1871, became the first Cavendish Professor of Physics at Cambridge.

He studied many things, but is known best for his mathematical work on electromagnetism and on the behaviour of gases.

Maxwell died in 1879 from cancer.


  • Maxwell, James Clerk, "On the Description of Oval Curves, and those having a plurality of Focus (geometry)|Foci". Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Vol. ii. 1846.
  • Maxwell, James Clerk, "Illustrations of the Dynamical Theory of Gases". 1860.
  • Maxwell, James Clerk, "On Physical Lines of Force". 1861.
  • Maxwell, James Clerk, "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field". 1865.
  • Maxwell, James Clerk, "On Governors".From the Proceedings of the Royal Society, No.100. 1868.
  • Maxwell, James Clerk, "Theory of Heat". 1871.
  • Maxwell, James Clerk, "A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism". Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1873.
  • Maxwell, James Clerk, "Molecules". Nature, September, 1873.
  • Maxwell, James Clerk, "Matter and Motion", 1876.
  • Maxwell, James Clerk, "On the Results of Bernoulli's Theory of Gases as Applied to their Internal Friction, their Diffusion, and their Conductivity for Heat".
  • Maxwell, James Clerk, "Ether", Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition (1875-89).