James Clerk Maxwell: Man of Light

James Clerk Maxwell: Man of Light

International Year of Light Blog

Next time you turn on your TV, think of James Clerk Maxwell. In one of the greatest feats of human thought he predicted the electromagnetic waves that bring the signal from the transmitter to your set. He also provided the means of producing the coloured image on your screen by showing that any colour can be made by combining red, green, and blue light in the appropriate proportions.

He was born in 1831 into a distinguished Scottish family and went to a top school in Edinburgh before studying at both Edinburgh and Cambridge Universities. In an astonishing and short career (he died aged 48), Maxwell made groundbreaking discoveries in every branch of physics that he turned his hand to. But in the International Year of Light 2015 it is fitting that we celebrate in particular his discoveries about light: not only his electromagnetic theory, first published 150 years ago, but…

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