On This Day

James Clerk Maxwell

Scientist James Clerk Maxwell

Profession: Scientist


Why Famous: James Clerk Maxwell's portrayal of electromagnetic forces as “fields” revolutionized physics in the 19th century. Maxwell took the work of Michael Faraday and created a mathematical formula that linked magnetism and electricity. His work created a basis for modern electrical engineering and paved the way for x-rays and radar.

Maxwell's other achievements included work on color including producing what was probably the first color photograph in 1861. He also produced ground-breaking work on the kinetic theory of gases, and on the nature of Saturn’s rings.

In Albert Einstein said Maxwell's work was the "most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton", and that his theory of relativity owed its origins to Maxwell's calculations.

Born: June 13, 1831
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Star Sign: Gemini

Died: November 5, 1879 (aged 48)
Cause of Death: Cancer

Historical Events

  • 1861-05-17 First color photograph of a tartan ribbon shown by Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell to the Royal Institution in London
  • 1864-12-08 James Clerk Maxwell's paper "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field" is 1st read by the Royal Society in London (published by the Royal Society 1865)

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