James Clerk Maxwell

“The special theory of relativity owes its origins to James Clerk Maxwell ‘s equations of the electromagnetic field.” — Albert Einstein

James Clerk Maxwell Was a?

  • Scientist
  • Physicist
  • Mathematician

Major Inventions and Discoveries?

  • James Clerk Maxwell formulated James Clerk Maxwell classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light.
  • His equations for electromagnetism are considered the “second great unification in physics” after the first one realized by Isaac Newton.
  • He created first colored photograph in 1861.
  • Maxwell also investigated the kinetic theory of gases.


  • Smiths Prize (1854)
  • Adams Prize (1857)
  • Rumford Medal (1860)
  • Keith Prize (1869-71)

Born on?

13 June 1831.

Place of birth?

Edinburgh, Scotland.




  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Cambridge
  • Marischal College, Aberdeen
  • King’s College, London

Died on?

5 November 1879.

Death place?

Cambridge, England.

Short Notes

  • James Clerk Maxwell is regarded as one of the greatest scientists.
  • He is well known for his noteworthy discoveries in the electric and magnetic fields.
  • He gave us most vital set of equations, known as ‘Maxwell’s Equations’.
  • The equation explains the properties of magnetic and electric fields and help show that light is an electromagnetic wave. Later his discovery of the electromagnetic spectrum was developed further to create devices like television, radio, microwave oven etc.
  • His work on electromagnetic fields provided the basic work for Einstein’s Special Theory of Relatively as well.
  • The concept of Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution is one of his huge contributions to physics. This distribution showed how particle speeds in idealized gases where the particles move freely and have brief collisions with each other.
  • James Clerk Maxwell worked in varied scientific fields throughout his career and his major forte lied on energy, photography and thermodynamics.
  •  He was just 25 year old when he accepted professorship at Aberdeen University.
  • He was bestowed with an award in 1859 for his essay ‘On the Stability of Saturn’s Rings’, which described the nature of Saturn’s rings as numerous small particles rather than a solid or fluid ring.
  • Many do not know that the large amount of Maxwell’s research was based on the work of Michael Faraday.
  • Maxwell also made many contributions in the fields of color analysis, kinetic theory and thermodynamics. He is even attributed for the creation of first color photograph.
  • Maxwell died on November 5, 1879, from abdominal cancer.
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