James Maxwell was an eminent Scottish scientist who made great contribution to the field of mathematical physics. He is accredited with propounding the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation. His theory brought together light, electricity and magnetism as manifestations of the same phenomenon for the first time. His thoughts and equations on electromagnetism are referred to as ‘second great unification in physics’. He is also known for his contribution in developing ‘Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution’ that is a statistical means of throwing light on various aspects of kinetic theory of gases. He was also the one who presented the first durable colour photograph in 1861. Zoom through the popular quotes and sayings by the celebrated scientist which have been excerpted from his researches, theories, writings, thoughts, work, books and life. Go through the notable quotes and thoughts by James Maxwell on language, example, man, nature, problems, science, space, intelligence, greatest, rules, results, problems, men, war and more.
Gin a body meet a body
Flyin' through the air,
Gin a body hit a body,
Will it fly? and where?
Heat may be generated and destroyed by certain processes, and this shows that heat is not a substance.
It is of great advantage to the student of any subject to read the original memoirs on that subject, for science is always most completely assimilated when it is in the nascent state.
All the mathematical sciences are founded on the relations between physical laws and laws of numbers.
The student who uses home made apparatus, which is always going wrong, often learns more than one who has the use of carefully adjusted instruments, to which he is apt to trust and which he dares not take to pieces.
We can scarcely avoid the inference that light consists in the transverse undulations of the same medium which is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena.
The only laws of matter are those that our minds must fabricate and the only laws of mind are fabricated for it by matter.
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.
Thoroughly conscious ignorance is the prelude to every real advance in science.
The true logic of this world is in the calculus of probabilities.
I have looked into most philosophical systems and I have seen that none will work without God.
In Science, it is when we take some interest in the great discoverers and their lives that it becomes endurable, and only when we begin to trace the development of ideas that it becomes fascinating.
In a few years, all great physical constants will have been approximately estimated, and that the only occupation which will be left to men of science will be to carry these measurements to another place of decimals.
Mathematicians may flatter themselves that they possess new ideas which mere human language is as yet unable to express.
Ampere was the Newton of Electricity.
All the mathematical sciences are founded on relations between physical laws and laws of numbers, so that the aim of exact science is to reduce the problems of nature to the determination of quantities by operations with numbers.
The mind of man has perplexed itself with many hard questions. Is space infinite, and in what sense? Is the material world infinite in extent, and are all places within that extent equally full of matter? Do atoms exist or is matter infinitely divisible?
Every existence above a certain rank has its singular points; the higher the rank the more of them. At these points, influences whose physical magnitude is too small to be taken account of by a finite being may produce results of the greatest importance.
I think men of science as well as other men need to learn from Christ, and I think Christians whose minds are scientific are bound to study science that their view of the glory of God may be as extensive as their being is capable. But I think that the results which each man arrives at in his attempts to harmonize his science with his Christianity ought not to be regarded as having any significance except to the man himself, and to him only for a time, and should not receive the stamp of a society.
At quite uncertain times and places,
The atoms left their heavenly path,
And by fortuitous embraces,
Engendered all that being hath.
And though they seem to cling together,
And form 'associations' here,
Yet, soon or late, they burst their tether,
And through the depths of space career.
Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing. We have reached the utmost limit of our thinking faculties when we have admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and self-existent it must have been created.
The popularisation of scientific doctrines is producing as great an alteration in the mental state of society as the material applications of science are effecting in its outward life. Such indeed is the respect paid to science, that the most absurd opinions may become current, provided they are expressed in language, the sound of which recals [sic] some well-known scientific phrase.
In speaking of the Energy of the field, however, I wish to be understood literally. All energy is the same as mechanical energy, whether it exists in the form of motion or in that of elasticity, or in any other form. The energy in electromagnetic phenomena is mechanical energy.
Accordingly, we find Euler and D'Alembert devoting their talent and their patience to the establishment of the laws of rotation of the solid bodies. Lagrange has incorporated his own analysis of the problem with his general treatment of mechanics, and since his time M. Poinsôt has brought the subject under the power of a more searching analysis than that of the calculus, in which ideas take the place of symbols, and intelligent propositions supersede equations.
I have been battering away at Saturn, returning to the charge every now and then. I have effected several breaches in the solid ring, and now I am splash into the fluid one, amid a clash of symbols truly astounding. When I reappear it will be in the dusky ring, which is something like the state of the air supposing the siege of Sebastopol conducted from a forest of guns 100 miles one way, and 30,000 miles the other, and the shot never to stop, but go spinning away round a circle, radius 170,000 miles.
In your letter you apply the word imponderable to a molecule. Don't do that again. It may also be worth knowing that the aether cannot be molecular. If it were, it would be a gas, and a pint of it would have the same properties as regards heat, etc., as a pint of air, except that it would not be so heavy.
What, then, is light according to the electromagnetic theory? It consists of alternate and opposite rapidly recurring transverse magnetic disturbances, accompanied with electric displacements, the direction of the electric displacement being at the right angles to the magnetic disturbance, and both at right angles to the direction of the ray.
It was a great step in science when men became convinced that, in order to understand the nature of things, they must begin by asking, not whether a thing is good or bad, noxious or beneficial, but of what kind it is? And how much is there of it? Quality and Quantity were then first recognised as the primary features to be observed in scientific inquiry.
An Experiment, like every other event which takes place, is a natural phenomenon; but in a Scientific Experiment the circumstances are so arranged that the relations between a particular set of phenomena may be studied to the best advantage.
The experimental investigation by which Ampere established the law of the mechanical action between electric currents is one of the most brilliant achievements in science. The whole theory and experiment, seems as if it had leaped, full grown and full armed, from the brain of the 'Newton of Electricity'. It is perfect in form, and unassailable in accuracy, and it is summed up in a formula from which all the phenomena may be deduced, and which must always remain the cardinal formula of electro-dynamics.
Mathematicians may flatter themselves that they possess new ideas which mere human language is as yet unable to express. Let them make the effort to express these ideas in appropriate words without the aid of symbols, and if they succeed they will not only lay us laymen under a lasting obligation, but, we venture to say, they will find themselves very much enlightened during the process, and will even be doubtful whether the ideas as expressed in symbols had ever quite found their way out of the equations into their minds.
Natural causes, as we know, are at work, which tend to modify, if they do not at length destroy, all the arrangements and dimensions of the earth and the whole solar system. But though in the course of ages catastrophes have occurred and may yet occur in the heavens, though ancient systems may be dissolved and new systems evolved out of their ruins, the molecules [i.e. atoms] out of which these systems are built-the foundation stones of the material universe-remain unbroken and unworn. They continue to this day as they were created-perfect in number and measure and weight.
The vast interplanetary and vast interstellar regions will no longer be regarded as waste places in the universe. We shall find them to be already full of this wonderful medium; so full that no human power can remove it from the smallest portion of space or produce the slightest flaw in its infinite continuity.
Whether this vast homogeneous expanse of isotropic matter is fitted not only to be a medium of physical interaction between distant bodies, and to fulfil other physical functions of which perhaps we have as yet no conception, but also to constitute the material organism of beings exercising functions of life and mind as high or higher than ours are at present is a question far transcending the limits of physical speculation.
My soul is an entangled knot,
Upon a liquid vortex wrought
By Intellect in the Unseen residing,
And thine doth like a convict sit,
With marline-spike untwisting it,
Only to find its knottiness abiding;
Since all the tools for its untying
In four-dimensional space are lying,
Wherein they fancy intersperses
Long avenues of universes,
While Klein and Clifford fill the void
With one finite, unbounded homoloid,
And think the Infinite is now at last destroyed.
And last of all we have the secondary forms of crystals bursting in upon us, and sparkling in the rigidity of mathematical necessity and telling us, neither of harmony of design, usefulness or moral significance, nothing but spherical trigonometry and Napier's analogies. It is because we have blindly excluded the lessons of these angular bodies from the domain of human knowledge that we are still in doubt about the great doctrine that the only laws of matter are those which our minds must fabricate, and the only laws of mind are fabricated for it by matter.
In fact, whenever energy is transmitted from one body to another in time, there must be a medium or substance in which the energy exists after it leaves one body and before it reaches the other ... and if we admit this medium as an hypothesis, I think it ought to occupy a prominent place in our investigations, and that we ought to endeavour to construct a mental representation of all the details of its action, and this has been my constant aim in this treatise.
The theory I propose may therefore be called a theory of the Electromagnetic Field because it has to do with the space in the neighbourhood of the electric or magnetic bodies, and it may be called a Dynamical Theory, because it assumes that in the space there is matter in motion, by which the observed electromagnetic phenomena are produced.
If we betake ourselves to the statistical method, we do so confessing that we are unable to follow the details of each individual case, and expecting that the effects of widespread causes, though very different in each individual, will produce an average result on the whole nation, from a study of which we may estimate the character and propensities of an imaginary being called the Mean Man.
Science appears to us with a very different aspect after we have found out that it is not in lecture rooms only, and by means of the electric light projected on a screen, that we may witness physical phenomena, but that we may find illustrations of the highest doctrines of science in games and gymnastics, in travelling by land and by water, in storms of the air and of the sea, and wherever there is matter in motion.
But I should be very sorry if an interpretation founded on a most conjectural scientific hypothesis were to get fastened to the text in Genesis... The rate of change of scientific hypothesis is naturally much more rapid than that of Biblical interpretations, so that if an interpretation is founded on such an hypothesis, it may help to keep the hypothesis above ground long after it ought to be buried and forgotten.
... that, in a few years, all great physical constants will have been approximately estimated, and that the only occupation which will be left to men of science will be to carry these measurements to another place of decimals.
The University of Cambridge, in accordance with that law of its evolution, by which, while maintaining the strictest continuity between the successive phases of its history, it adapts itself with more or less promptness to the requirements of the times, has lately instituted a course of Experimental Physics.