Maxwell, James Clerk (1831-1879), British physicist, whose research and writing explained the properties of electromagnetism. These contributions made him one of the most important scientists of the 1800s. Maxwell also developed the kinetic theory of gases, which explains the physical properties and nature of a gas. His other accomplishments include the investigation of color vision and the principles of thermodynamics.
Maxwell expanded on the research that the British scientist Michael Faraday had conducted on electromagnetic fields. Maxwell demonstrated the mathematical relation between electric and magnetic fields. He also showed that light is made up of electromagnetic waves. His greatest work is Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (1873), in which he first published his set of four differential equations that describe the nature of electromagnetic fields in terms of space and time. Maxwell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was educated at the universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge. He was professor of physics at the University of Aberdeen from 1856 to 1860. In 1871 he became the first professor of experimental physics at Cambridge, where he supervised the construction of the Cavendish laboratory.
Maxwell's work paved the way for the investigations of the German physicist Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, who performed experiments to support Maxwell's theories. Maxwell's theories helped scientists determine the numerical equality of the velocity of light in cgs units and the ratio of electromagnetic to electrostatic units. The cqs unit of magnetic flux, the maxwell, was named in his honor. Maxwell's other important works include Theory of Heat (1877) and Matter and Motion (1876).
"Maxwell, James Clerk," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.
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