Maxwell Said… And Then There Was Light

James Clerk MaxwellOn this day back in 1865, the great poet William Butler Yeats was born. I’ve never taken the time to really appreciate him. Perhaps someday. With all due respect (not much) to Robert Downey Jr, the ultimate and forever screen Sherlock Holmes, Basil Rathbone was born in 1892.

A whole bunch of actors have birthdays today. Malcolm McDowell is 70. It always amazes me how badly attractive men age. Both Richard Thomas and Stellan Skarsgard are 62. Tim Allen is 60. And crush of my youth, Ally Sheedy is 51. Finally, a musician, David Gray is 45. And because I’m suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and thus just going through the motions, here’s one of his songs:

There are three great physicists who stand distinctly above all others. They are Newton, Einstein, and the guy normal people have never heard of: James Clerk Maxwell. And it is to him, born in 1831 that this day belongs. His work in color analysis alone was enough to make him famous in this own time. His work in statistical mechanics alone was enough to make him one of the most important physicists of all time. But it is for his work on electromagnetism that makes him as a scientist of unsurpassed importance.

He took the fields of electricity, magnetism, and optics and combined them into one consistent theory: Maxwell’s Equations. You may have seen t-shirts or (in this case) a mug with the following very nerdy physics joke:

Maxwell's Equations

Happy birthday James Clerk Maxwell!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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