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JAMES CLERK MAXWELL

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Einstein said "One scientific epoch ended and another began with James Clerk Maxwell”
Maxwell laid the foundations for many of the scientific and technological advances which shape our world.
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Television, radio, radar and mobile phones all stem from Maxwell’s discovery of the nature of electromagnetic waves, described by these equations.

He also made the first colour photographic image.

In the Edinburgh statue he holds the colour top used in his analysis of colour perception.

Unassuming and modest, he sought to understand how the world around him worked, making fundamental contributions to every aspect of physical science.

Often ahead of his time, it was many years before others confirmed his theories. He is a giant figure, one of the preeminent founders of modern technology, inspiring both wonder and affection.


Maxwell is considered to be the most important physicist of the 19th Century.

Born at 14 India Street, Edinburgh, he studied at Edinburgh Academy and the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge. His first paper was published at age 14!

He was appointed as Professor of Physics at Marischal College, Aberdeen then at Kings College, London. He subsequently established and served as the first director of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge.

Elected a Fellow of the Royal Societies of Edinburgh (1856) and London (1861), he also received many international honours.

Maxwell often worshiped at St Andrew’s Church, close to where his statue now stands.

He is buried in Parton churchyard (Dumfries and Galloway), near his family estate at Glenlair. The equations are both the legacy and epitaph to one of the greatest scientists that ever lived.

"From a long view of the history of mankind - seen from, say, ten thousand years from now - there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics"  Nobel laureate Richard P Feynman

To learn more, visit the James Clerk Maxwell Foundation website.

Find out about visiting Maxwell’s Edinburgh birthplace.