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James Clerk Maxwell. Andrew Davis Danny Rogers Melissa Woolley. Childhood. Parents: John and Frances Clerk Maxwell Curious Childhood led to the discovery of mirrors. Birthplace Edinburgh, Scotland. Education. Home taught by his mother until about 7 years old

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james clerk maxwell

James Clerk Maxwell

Andrew Davis

Danny Rogers

Melissa Woolley

  • Parents: John and Frances Clerk Maxwell
  • Curious Childhood led to the discovery of mirrors


Edinburgh, Scotland

  • Home taught by his mother until about 7 years old
  • Tutored for a year by a 16 year old neighbor – until he rebelled
  • Finally entered public school and earned the nickname “Dafty”

Maxwell escaping his tutor in a washing tub

university education
University education
  • Entered Edinburgh University at age 16
  • In 1850 he moved to Cambridge to pursue a career in science
  • Passed his finals at Cambridge as “Second Wrangler”
beyond the math and physics
Beyond the Math and Physics

“... So I get up and see what kind of day it is, and what field works are to be done; then I catch the pony and bring up the water barrel ... Then I take the dogs out, and then look round the garden for fruit and seeds, and paddle about till breakfast time; after I that take up Cicero and see if I can understand him. If so, I read till I stick; if not, I set to Xen. or Herodt. Then I do props (math problems), chiefly on rolling curves ... After props come optics, and principally polarized light…”

beyond the math and physics1
Beyond the Math and Physics
  • I believe … that ``Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever''
  • Maxwell was convinced of one of Frederick Denison Maurice's key tenets, that the dehumanization of the working class in an industrializing society was to be prevented by a cooperative approach in which workers were given greater influence though education. Maurice and his friends set up Working Men's Colleges, and Maxwell, seeing this as a vital Christian service, taught Working Men's classes weekly till at least 1866.
what we can learn from maxwell
What we can learn from Maxwell
  • Balance
  • Faith
  • Service
  • Love

“Another aspect of Maxwell's character that is revealed in his marriage is the kindness and compassion with which he nursed his wife through frequent indispositions… James was ever the caring husband and frequently sat up all night to tend her, even during his own final illness”

statistical mechanics
Statistical Mechanics
  • Maxwellian distribution 1-D:
  • <V>, Vrms
  • Introduced probability into physics
  • Proved viscosity of a gas is independent of pressure
  • Lines of Force
  • Maxwell’s Equations
  • Speed of light
  • Aether
  • Color receptors in the eye: red, blue, green
  • Took the first color photograph
  • Saturn’s Rings
  • Topology
  • Cybernetics