
More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

James Clerk Maxwell


(1831–79) Physicist whose mathematical development of *Faraday's proposals laid the basis for modern field theory. In a series of papers beginning with On Faraday's Lines of Force (1856) he provided a mathematical model for electromagnetism; this was followed by his Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (1873), and the 'Maxwell equations' remain the cornerstone of the subject.




His researches provided him with a further momentous conclusion. Confirming experimentally that the speed of an electric current through a wire is much the same as the speed of light, he was the first to assert that light is itself a form of electromagnetic radiation. In a different area, he also made an important contribution to the kinetic theory of gases. In 1871 he became the first Cavendish Professor of Physics at Cambridge, and it was he who set up the famous *Cavendish Laboratory.



