James Clerk Maxwell

13th June 1831 to 5th November 1879
James Clerk Maxwell

James Clerk Maxwell put forward the theory that light and electricity travel through space as waves in A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field, published in 1865. Thus the theory of electromagnetic radiation was formed, and the second great leap in physics since Isaac Newton.

Born in Edinburgh, Maxwell was educated at the Edinburgh Academy, followed by Edinburgh University and Cambridge. He became head of department at Marischal College in Aberdeen, a good 15 years younger than any of his colleagues. He then became the Chair of Natural Philosophy at King’s College, London, in 1860, which would be one of the most productive periods of his career.

As well as his significant scientific legacy, he was also a keen appreciator and writer of poetry. A statue of James Clerk Maxwell is situated on Edinburgh’s George Street close the Royal Society of Edinburgh.