Maxwell, James Clerk


Maxwell, James Clerk

biographical name

(born June 13, 1831, Edinburgh, Scot.—died Nov. 5, 1879, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Eng.) Scottish physicist. He published his first scientific paper at age 14, entered the University of Edinburgh at 16, and graduated from Cambridge University. He taught at Aberdeen University, King's College London, and Cambridge (from 1871), where he supervised the building of Cavendish Laboratory. His most revolutionary achievement was his demonstration that light is an electromagnetic wave, and he originated the concept of electromagnetic radiation. His field equations (see Maxwell's equations) paved the way for Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity. He established the nature of Saturn's rings, did important work on colour perception, and produced the kinetic theory of gases. His ideas formed the basis for quantum mechanics and ultimately for the modern theory of the structure of atoms and molecules.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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