The Life and Science of James Clerk Maxwell

explanatory Essay
2169 words
2169 words

The Life and Science of James Clerk Maxwell

(1831-1879) Physicist and Mathematician

“The theory of relativity would have never been possible without the mathematical

equations first described by James Maxwell."

-Albert Einstein


James Clerk Maxwell may not be a household name when it comes to scientists, but his contributions to the field ranks him with some of the great scientists of all time.He is mainly known for his ground breaking work in electromagnetics, spurring a field that has given rise to many of the great accomplishments of the twentieth century.His equations, which relate the effects of electricity and magnetism to one another, are key in the development of modern relativity theory and the development electrical components and electronic systems.Like many great scientists, Maxwell was ahead of his time and his equations were not completely understood by his peers, but as science and mathematics progressed the beauty and genius behind his equations was fully revealed.

On June 13, 1831, James Clerk Maxwell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland.With the exception of an older sister that died at a young age, he was an only child.His father, John, was a lawyer who was in his forties by the time James was born.John was considered to be an intelligent, but somewhat eccentric man.When James was young, his mother, Frances Cay, died after a prolonged illness (believed now to be cancer).After his mother’s passing, James was raised by his father and his aunt, Jane Cay and lived on his family’s estate, Glenair in Edinburgh. (Tolstoy 1981 10-12)


Even at an early age, James showed a fascination with the world aro...

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- University of Zagreb:

- Encyclopaedia Britannica:


Campbell, Lewis and William Garnett. The Life of James Clerk Maxwell. London: Macmillian and Co. 1882.

Fishbane, Paul, Stephen Gasiorowicz, and Stephen Thornton.Physics for Scientists and Engineers: Second Edition.

Upper River Saddle, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.1996.

Harman, Peter M.The Natural Philosophy of James Clerk Maxwell.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Maxwell, James Clerk.A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism.Two volumes, 1873.

Tolstoy, Ivan.James Clerk Maxwell: A Biography.Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Tricker, R.A.R.The Contributions of Faraday & Maxwell to Electrical Science. London: Pergamon, 1966.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that there isn't as much information about james maxwell available on-line and some other scientists, and most of the resources available online only provide brief descriptions of his life and achievements.
  • Explains campbell, lewis, and garnett's the life of james clerk maxwell.
  • Explains that james clerk maxwell is a household name when it comes to scientists, but his contributions to the field rank him with some of the great scientists of all time.
  • Describes james's fascination with the world around him and his ability to recite the 119th psalm.
  • Explains maxwell's work on electric and magnetic fields and the mathematical relationship between them.
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