James Clerk Maxwell Essay Research Paper James

James Clerk Maxwell Essay, Research Paper

James Clerk Maxwell


James Clerk Maxwell was a British physicist. Maxwell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on November 13, 1831. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy from 1841 to 1847. He then entered the University of Edinburgh, and went on to study at the University of Cambridge in 1850, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1854. In 1860, he moved to London to become a professor of philosophy and astronomy at King’s College. Due to the death of his father in 1865, Maxwell returned to his family in Scotland and devoted himself to research. In 1871 he moved to Cambridge, where he became the first professor of experimental physics and set up the Cavendish Laboratory, which opened in 1874.

Human Eye & Color

Maxwell s first important contribution to science began in 1849, when he applied himself to examining how human eyes detect color. He proved Young s theory that the eye has three kinds of receptors sensitive to the primary colors. He invented the trichromatic process. Using red, green, and blue filters, he took the first color photograph in 1861 of a tartan-patterned ribbon. This proved to be the ancestor of all color photography.

Kinetic Theory Of Gases

Maxwell was best known for his work on the connection between light and electromagnetic waves. Electromagnetic waves are traveling waves of energy. Maxwell discovered that light consists of electromagnetic waves and established the kinetic theory of gases. The kinetic theory of gases explains the relationship between the movement of molecules in a gas and the gas’s temperature and other properties. Maxwell’s improvement of the kinetic theory of gases was inspired by his success in the similar problem of Saturn’s rings. He believed that a solid ring would collapse, and that therefore the rings of Saturn must be made up of many small bodies orbiting the planet. This was concluded through photographs taken from the spacecraft Pioneer. He arrived at a formula to express the distribution of velocity in gas molecules, relating it to temperature.

He showed that gases store heat in the motion of their molecules, so the molecules in a gas will speed up as the gas’s temperature increases.

Space Exploration

Because of the discovery of electromagnetic radiation, the development of radio and infra-red telescopes occurred. Through telescopes, people today can look at and study stars, the moon, and other planets. A telescope in Hawaii was named the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in honor of his discovery.


Maxwell was the founder of the existence of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. Maxwell stated his belief that energies reside in fields as well as bodies. His belief pointed the way to the application of electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation is used today in radios, televisions, radar, and microwaves.


In conclusion, James Clerk Maxwell was one of the most important physicists of the 1800 s. He opened many doors with the discovery of the kinetic theory of gases. He took the first color photograph by using blue, green, and red filters, therefore paving the way for photography, and he discovered electromagnetic radiation which later developed telescopes. It is clearly evident that because of the works of Maxwell, we have things such as microwaves, radios, and televisions.


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