Description | James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), one of the most distinguished of all Edinburgh alumni, is ranked alongside Newton and Einstein. Einstein himself said of his achievement: "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 experienced since the time of Newton". It has been argued that Maxwell's analysis of the phenomena of light and electromagnetism, with its stress on forms that can be visualized, i.e. fields and waves, may have been aided by his Edinburgh training in Euclidian mathematics with its stress on visual solutions to mathematical problems.
A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism' (1873) includes the formulas today known as the Maxwell Equations. Maxwell also showed that these equations implicitly required the existence of electromagnetic waves traveling at the speed of light. Maxwell proposed that the phenomenon of light is therefore an electromagnetic phenomenon and that visible light forms only a small part of the entire spectrum of possible electromagnetic radiation. |
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