James Clerk Maxwell quotes

James Clerk Maxwell photo
27   2

James Clerk Maxwell

Birthdate: 13. June 1831
Date of death: 5. November 1879

James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish scientist in the field of mathematical physics. His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as different manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism have been called the "second great unification in physics" after the first one realised by Isaac Newton.

With the publication of "A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field" in 1865, Maxwell demonstrated that electric and magnetic fields travel through space as waves moving at the speed of light. He proposed that light is an undulation in the same medium that is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena. The unification of light and electrical phenomena led his prediction of the existence of radio waves. Maxwell is also regarded as a founder of the modern field of electrical engineering.He helped develop the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution, a statistical means of describing aspects of the kinetic theory of gases. He is also known for presenting the first durable colour photograph in 1861 and for his foundational work on analysing the rigidity of rod-and-joint frameworks like those in many bridges.

His discoveries helped usher in the era of modern physics, laying the foundation for such fields as special relativity and quantum mechanics. Many physicists regard Maxwell as the 19th-century scientist having the greatest influence on 20th-century physics. His contributions to the science are considered by many to be of the same magnitude as those of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. In the millennium poll—a survey of the 100 most prominent physicists—Maxwell was voted the third greatest physicist of all time, behind only Newton and Einstein. On the centenary of Maxwell's birthday, Einstein described Maxwell's work as the "most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton". Einstein, when he visited the University of Cambridge in 1922, was told by his host that he had done great things because he stood on Newton's shoulders; Einstein replied: "No I don't. I stand on the shoulders of Maxwell".

Works

„Happiness and Misery must inevitably increase with increasing Power and Knowledge“

—  James Clerk Maxwell

Letter to Lewis Campbell (9 November 1851) in Ch. 6 : Undergraduate Life At Cambridge October 1850 to January 1854 — ÆT. 19-22, p. 158
Context: I believe, with the Westminster Divines and their predecessors ad Infinitum that "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever."
That for this end to every man has been given a progressively increasing power of communication with other creatures.
That with his powers his susceptibilities increase. That happiness is indissolubly connected with the full exercise of these powers in their intended direction. That Happiness and Misery must inevitably increase with increasing Power and Knowledge. That the translation from the one course to the other is essentially miraculous, while the progress is natural. But the subject is too high. I will not, however, stop short, but proceed to Intellectual Pursuits.

„Colour as perceived by us is a function of three independent variables“

—  James Clerk Maxwell

Maxwell, in a letter to William Thomson, The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell: 1846-1862 (1990), p. 245.
Context: Colour as perceived by us is a function of three independent variables at least three are I think sufficient, but time will show if I thrive.

„I hope that you will not tell me you have little fault to find with me, without finding that little and communicating it.“

—  James Clerk Maxwell

Letter to Rev. C. B. Tayler ( 8 July 1853) in Ch. 6 : Undergraduate Life At Cambridge October 1850 to January 1854 — ÆT. 19-22, p. 189
Context: I maintain that all the evil influences that I can trace have been internal and not external, you know what I mean—that I have the capacity of being more wicked than any example that man could set me, and that if I escape, it is only by God's grace helping me to get rid of myself, partially in science, more completely in society, — but not perfectly except by committing myself to God as the instrument of His will, not doubtfully, but in the certain hope that that Will will be plain enough at the proper time. Nevertheless, you see things from the outside directly, and I only by reflexion, so I hope that you will not tell me you have little fault to find with me, without finding that little and communicating it.

„In every branch of knowledge the progress is proportional to the amount of facts on which to build“

—  James Clerk Maxwell

Letter to Lewis Campbell (9 November 1851) in Ch. 6 : Undergraduate Life At Cambridge October 1850 to January 1854 — ÆT. 19-22, p. 159
Context: In every branch of knowledge the progress is proportional to the amount of facts on which to build, and therefore to the facility of obtaining data.

„Words from empty words they sever—
Words of Truth from words of Pride.“

—  James Clerk Maxwell

Part III Poems, "Reflection from Various Surfaces" (April 18, 1853)
Context: By the hollow mauntain-side
Questions strange I shout for ever,
While echoes far and wide
Seem to mock my vain endeavour;
Still I shout, for though they never
Cast my borrowed voice aside,
Words from empty words they sever—
Words of Truth from words of Pride.

„This velocity is so nearly that of light, that it seems we have strong reason to conclude that light itself“

—  James Clerk Maxwell, A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field

A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field (1864), §20.
Context: The general equations are next applied to the case of a magnetic disturbance propagated through a non-conductive field, and it is shown that the only disturbances which can be so propagated are those which are transverse to the direction of propagation, and that the velocity of propagation is the velocity v, found from experiments such as those of Weber, which expresses the number of electrostatic units of electricity which are contained in one electromagnetic unit. This velocity is so nearly that of light, that it seems we have strong reason to conclude that light itself (including radiant heat, and other radiations if any) is an electromagnetic disturbance in the form of waves propagated through the electromagnetic field according to electromagnetic laws.

„I mean—that I have the capacity of being more wicked than any example that man could set me, and that if I escape, it is only by God's grace“

—  James Clerk Maxwell

Letter to Rev. C. B. Tayler ( 8 July 1853) in Ch. 6 : Undergraduate Life At Cambridge October 1850 to January 1854 — ÆT. 19-22, p. 189
Context: I maintain that all the evil influences that I can trace have been internal and not external, you know what I mean—that I have the capacity of being more wicked than any example that man could set me, and that if I escape, it is only by God's grace helping me to get rid of myself, partially in science, more completely in society, — but not perfectly except by committing myself to God as the instrument of His will, not doubtfully, but in the certain hope that that Will will be plain enough at the proper time. Nevertheless, you see things from the outside directly, and I only by reflexion, so I hope that you will not tell me you have little fault to find with me, without finding that little and communicating it.

Help us translate English quotes

Discover interesting quotes and translate them.

Start translating

„But we have no right to think thus of the unsearchable riches of creation, or of the untried fertility of those fresh minds into which these riches will continue to be poured.“

—  James Clerk Maxwell

Introductory Lecture on Experimental Physics held at Cambridge in October 1871, re-edited by W. D. Niven (2003) in Volume 2 of The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, Courier Dover Publications, p. 241; this has sometimes been misquoted in a way which considerably alters its intent: "in a few years, all the great physical constants will have been approximately estimated, and … the only occupation which will then be left to the men of science will be to carry these measurement to another place of decimals."
Context: This characteristic of modern experiments — that they consist principally of measurements — is so prominent, that the opinion seems to have got abroad, that in a few years all the great physical constants will have been approximately estimated, and that the only occupation which will then be left to men of science will be to carry on these measurements to another place of decimals. If this is really the state of things to which we are approaching, our Laboratory may perhaps become celebrated as a place of conscientious labour and consummate skill, but it will be out of place in the University, and ought rather to be classed with the other great workshops of our country, where equal ability is directed to more useful ends.
But we have no right to think thus of the unsearchable riches of creation, or of the untried fertility of those fresh minds into which these riches will continue to be poured. It may possibly be true that, in some of those fields of discovery which lie open to such rough observations as can be made without artificial methods, the great explorers of former times have appropriated most of what is valuable, and that the gleanings which remain are sought after, rather for their abstruseness, than for their intrinsic worth. But the history of science shews that even during the phase of her progress in which she devotes herself to improving the accuracy of the numerical measurement of quantities with which she has long been familiar, she is preparing the materials for the subjugation of the new regions, which would have remained unknown if she had been contented with the rough methods of her early pioneers. I might bring forward instances gathered from every branch of science, shewing how the labour of careful measurement has been rewarded by the discovery of new fields of research, and by the development of new scientific ideas. But the history of the science of terrestrial magnetism affords us a sufficient example of what may be done by experiments in concert, such as we hope some day to perform in our Laboratory.

„How the learned fool would wonder
Were he now to see his blunder,
When he put his reason under
The control of worldly Pride.“

—  James Clerk Maxwell

Part III Poems, "A Vision Of a Wrangler, of a University, of Pedantry, and of Philosophy. " (November 10, 1852)

„The whole science of heat is founded Thermometry and Calorimetry, and when these operations are understood we may proceed to the third step, which is the investigation of those relations between the thermal and the mechanical properties of substances which form the subject of Thermodynamics.“

—  James Clerk Maxwell

The whole of this part of the subject depends on the consideration of the Intrinsic Energy of a system of bodies, as depending on the temperature and physical state, as well as the form, motion, and relative position of these bodies. Of this energy, however, only a part is available for the purpose of producing mechanical work, and though the energy itself is indestructible, the available part is liable to diminution by the action of certain natural processes, such as conduction and radiation of heat, friction, and viscosity. These processes, by which energy is rendered unavailable as a source of work, are classed together under the name of the Dissipation of Energy.
Theory of Heat http://books.google.com/books?id=DqAAAAAAMAAJ "Preface" (1871)

„Aye, I suppose I could stay up that late.“

—  James Clerk Maxwell

Maxwell, on being told on his arrival at Cambridge University that there would be a compulsory 6 a.m. church service, as quoted in Spice in Science : The Best of Science Funnies (2006) by K. Krishna Murty

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

Similar authors

Walter Scott photo
Walter Scott151
Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet
Wilhelm Röntgen photo
Wilhelm Röntgen6
German physicist
Andrew Carnegie photo
Andrew Carnegie33
American businessman and philanthropist
Alexander Smith photo
Alexander Smith14
Scottish poet and essayist
Samuel Smiles photo
Samuel Smiles13
Scottish author
William Sharp (writer) photo
William Sharp (writer)9
Scottish writer
Henry Drummond photo
Henry Drummond3
Scottish evangelist, writer and lecturer
Heinrich Hertz photo
Heinrich Hertz4
German physicist
John Dalton photo
John Dalton6
English chemist, meteorologist and physicist
Gustav Kirchhoff photo
Gustav Kirchhoff2
German physicist
Today anniversaries
A.A. Milne photo
A.A. Milne168
British author 1882 - 1956
Rudyard Kipling photo
Rudyard Kipling197
English short-story writer, poet, and novelist 1865 - 1936
Gilles Villeneuve photo
Gilles Villeneuve9
Canadian racecar driver 1950 - 1982
Jonathan Davis photo
Jonathan Davis12
Heavy metal singer, frontman for Korn 1971
Another 64 today anniversaries
Similar authors
Walter Scott photo
Walter Scott151
Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet
Wilhelm Röntgen photo
Wilhelm Röntgen6
German physicist
Andrew Carnegie photo
Andrew Carnegie33
American businessman and philanthropist
Alexander Smith photo
Alexander Smith14
Scottish poet and essayist
Samuel Smiles photo
Samuel Smiles13
Scottish author