James Maxwell

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In existographies, James Maxwell (124-76 BE) (1831-1879 ACM) (IQ:195|#6) (ID:4.27|48) (RGM:53|1,350+) (PR:457|65AE / physicist:13) (Murray 4000:20|CS / 9|P) (Gottlieb 1000:205) (Becker 160:5|15L) (Simmons 100:12) (EPD:M8) (GPE:3) (CR:460) (LH:43) (TL:551|#8) was a Scottish mathematical physicist and philosopher, noted for []


A picture of Maxwell as a child, shown holding some sort of stick.[1]


In 1834, Maxwell, at age three, had a progressively-searching intellect:

“What's the go o' that?”
— James Maxwell (1834), “Response (age 3) to anything that moved, shone, or made a noise”
“What’s the particular go o’ that?”
— James Maxwell (1834), “Secondary response (age 3), if curiosity was not satisfied”
“Show me how it doos.”
— James Maxwell (1834), Comment (age 3-4) that is “ever out of his mouth” (described his mother)

He was described, as a child, as having "great work with doors, locks, keys, etc." and also to have "investigated the hidden course of streams and bell-wires, the way the water gets from the pond through the wall."[2]

Electromagnetic theory

In 1860, Maxwell, age 29, was appointed to the chair of natural philosophy at King's College, London, whereat, over the next six years, he did his most important experimental work.[3] Over the next four years, Maxwell deduced the startling conclusion the waves of electric and magnetic phenomena, are those of "light"; the following are the concluding points:

“The velocity of transverse undulations in our hypothetical medium, calculated from the electromagnetic experiments [1854] of Kohlrausch and Weber, agrees so exactly with the velocity of light calculated from the optical experiments of Fizeau, that we can scarcely avoid the inference that light consists in the transverse undulations of the same medium which is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena.”
— James Maxwell (1862), “On the Physical Lines of Force” (pg. 22)[4]
“Light and magnetism are affections of the same substance, and that light is an electromagnetic disturbance propagated through the field according to electromagnetic laws.”
— James Maxwell (1864), “A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field” (pg. #)

In 1873, Maxwell, in Electricity and Magnetism, presented the four partial differential equations, now known as “Maxwell's equations”, in fully developed form.


Quotes | On

The following are quotes on Maxwell:

“Was it god who wrote these signs?”
Ludwig Boltzmann (1893), commentary[5] on Maxwell's equations
“The special theory of relativity owes its origins to Maxwell's equations of the electromagnetic field. Since Maxwell's time, physical reality has been thought of as represented by continuous fields, and not capable of any mechanical interpretation. This change in the conception of reality is the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experience since the time of Newton. One scientific epoch ended and another began with James Clerk Maxwell.”
Albert Einstein (c.1920), aggregate quote[6]
Maxwell was one of the most penetrating intellects of all time.”
Robert Millikan (c.1930), Publication[6]
“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.”
Richard Feynman (1963), Lectures on Physics, Volume Two (pg. #)[7]

Quotes | By

Maxwell, on "we, that is, the work we've done, as waves in ether", from his 1878 "A Paradoxical Ode: After Shelley" poem.

The following are quotes by Maxwell:

“The only thing which can be directly perceived by the senses is force, to which may be reduced light, heat, electricity, sound and all the other things which can be perceived by the senses.”
— James Maxwell (1847), “Exercise on the properties of matter”, philosophy class of William Hamilton (1788-1856), University of Edinburgh[8]
“If in examining the admitted truths in science and philosophy, we find certain general principles appearing throughout a vast range of subjects, and sometimes reappearing in some quite distinct part of human knowledge; and if, on turning to the constitution of the intellect itself, we think we can discern there the reason of this uniformity, in the form of a fundamental law of the ‘rightaction of the intellect, are we to conclude that these various departments of nature in which analogous laws exist, have a real interdependence; or that their relation is only apparent and owing to the necessary conditions of human thought? The only ‘laws of matter’ are those which our minds must fabricate, and the only ‘laws of mind’ are fabricated for it by matter.”
— James Maxwell (1854), “Are There Real Analogies in Nature?”, Feb[9]
“We, that is, all the work we’ve done, as ‘waves in ether [spacetime]’, shall for ever run.”
— James Maxwell (1878), “A Paradoxical Ode: After Shelley” [10]
“A great deal of what has been written on this subject, relates to the continuity of the ‘ego’ in space and time. The student must fruitlessly try to eliminate, and painfully learn, that in order to do it, he must find the ‘equation on continuity’. Great principle of all we see; thou endless continuity!”
— James Maxwell (1878), “A Paradoxical Ode / After Shelley” (plus two earlier statements) [11]
“I cannot help thinking about the immediate circumstances which have brought a thing to pass, rather than about any ‘will’ setting them in motion. What is done by what is called my ‘self’ is, I feel, done by something greater than myself in me.”
— James Maxwell (1879), “Comment to Fenton Hort[12] when terminally ill”[13]

End matter

See also


  1. Johnson, Claes. (c.2015). Many Minds Relativity (pg. 180). Icarus.
  2. Mahon, Basil (2003). The Man Who Changed Everything: the Life of James Clerk Maxwell (pg. #). Hoboken, Wiley, 2015.
  3. James Clerk Maxwell (2000) – MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive.
  4. Maxwell, James. (1862). “On the Physical Lines of Force, Part Three: the Theory of Molecular Vortices Applied to Statical Electricity” (pg. 22), Philosophical Magazine, 23:12-24, Apr and May.
  5. Herman, Arthur. (2013). The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Philosophy (pg. #). Random.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Laidler, Keith. (c.2002). “The Genius of James Clerk Maxwell” (Ѻ), ElectronSpin.org.
  7. Feynman, Richard. (1863). Lectures on Physics, Volume Two (pg. #). Hachette.
  8. Mahon, Basil (2003). The Man Who Changed Everything – the Life of James Clerk Maxwell (color disc experiments, pgs. 50-55, 77, 93; senses quote, pg. 25). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  9. Maxwell, James. (1854). “Are There Real Analogies in Nature?”, Apostle’s Club, Cambridge, Feb.
    (b) Purrington, Robert. (1997). Physics in the Nineteenth Century (pg. 29). Rutgers.
  10. A Paradoxical Ode – Hmolpedia 2020.
  11. (a) Maxwell, James. (1878). “A Paradoxical Ode / After Shelley”, in: Life of Maxwell (editor: Lewis Campbell) (continuity, pgs. 453, 626, 650). MacMillan, 1882.
    (b) Thims, Libb. (2021). “Top Level Genius!” (Ѻ), r/RealGeniuses, May.
  12. Fenton Hort – Wikipedia.
  13. (a) Hort, Fenton J.A. (1882). “Letter to Lewis Campbell”, Feb 4.
    (b) Campbell, Lewis and Garnett, William. (1882). The Life of James Clerk Maxwell: with Selections from His Correspondence and Occasional Writings (pg. 421). MacMillan and Co, 1884.
    (c) Anon. (1888). “Review: Natural Causation by C.E. Plumptre”, Journal of Education (pg. 479), Oct 1.
    (d) Nørretranders, Tor. (1991). The User Illusion: Cutting Conscious Down to Size (Mærk verden) (pg. v). Publisher: A. Lane, 1998.
    (e) Seitz, Frederick. (2001). “James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879); Member APS 1875” (pdf) (pg. 1; [n. 2, pg. 421]), Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 145(1):1-45, Mar.
    (f) Flood, Raymond, McCartney, Mark, and Whitaker, Andrew. (2014). James Clerk Maxwell: Perspectives on His Life and Work (pg. 283). Oxford University Press.


  • Maxwell, James. (1873). “Molecules” (txt), BAAS talk, Bradford; in: Nature, 8: 437-41; in: Phil. Mag. (4):453-69; in: Maxwell’s Scientific Papers, Volume Two (pg. 361-78); in: Maxwell on Molecules and Gases (editors: Elizabeth Garber and Stephen Brush) (§:16: “Molecules”, pgs. 137-40). MIT Press, 1986.
  • Maxwell, James. (1990). The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell: Volume I, 1846-1862. (editor: Peter Harman). Cambridge.
  • Maxwell, James. (1995). The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell: Volume II, 1862-73 (editor: Peter Harman). Cambridge.
  • Maxwell, James. (2002). The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell: Volume III, 1874-79 (editor: Peter Harman). Cambridge.

Further reading

  • Haley, Christopher. (2002). “James Maxwell: On Vortex Theory” (WB), VictorianWeb.org.

External links

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