On This Day

William Thomson

Mathematical Physicist and Engineer William Thomson

Full Name: 1st Baron Kelvin
Profession: Mathematical Physicist and Engineer


Why Famous: William Thomson was one of the foremost scientists and engineers of his age. Born in Belfast, Thomson studied at Cambridge before becoming a professor at Glasgow University where he remained for 50 years.

As an academic he published more than 600 scientific papers, his most famous where he proposed an absolute scale of temperature, now called the Kelvin scale.

Thomson became famous to the public through his involvement in the laying of the Trans-Atlantic telegraph cable in the 1850s and 1860s and for his inventions, including the Kelvin compass and a sounding machine. In 1866 he was knighted by Queen Victoria and created 1st Baron Kelvin of Largs 1892.

Thomson's involvement with industry made him rich as well as famous. He was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1907.

Born: June 26, 1824
Birthplace: Belfast, Ireland, United Kingdom
Star Sign: Cancer

Died: December 17, 1907 (aged 83)
Cause of Death: A chill

Historical Events

  • 1834-11-14 William Thomson enters Glasgow University at 10 yrs 4 months
  • 1858-08-05 First transatlantic telegraph cable lands at Trinity Bay, Newfoundland spearheaded by Cyrus West Field (will fail after 3 weeks)
  • 1858-08-16 Britain's Queen Victoria telegraphs US President James Buchanan for 1st time by transatlantic telegraph cable, he replies ""it is a triumph more glorious, because far more useful to mankind, than was ever won by conqueror on the field of battle."
  • 1866-07-27 Transatlantic telegraph cable successfully in second attempt comes ashore at Heart's Content, Newfoundland laid out by Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Eastern steamship (1,686 miles long)

Biographies and Sources