James Maxwell

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James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) was an Scottish-born physicist who advanced the theory of electricity and magnetism, and also the kinetic theory of gases.

In his youth, Maxwell enjoyed geometry, and wrote a paper on ellipses at the age of 14. While he was not the top student in his class in mathematics, he continued his geometric approach and applied it with great success to physics. Maxwell is considered one of the greatest physicists ever.

From the way in which changes in a magnetic field produce electric fields, and the way in which changes in electric fields produced magnetic fields, Maxwell deduced a set of equations that describe them, Maxwell's Equations, in 1861. The equations predicted the possibility of electromagnetic waves. Other scientists looked for and detected these waves, which led both to the development of radio communication and to the discovery that light is a kind of electromagnetic wave.

He also invented Maxwell's demon as a demonstration of the impossibility of perpetual motion.

Quotations

Maxwell wrote:

No theory of evolution can be formed to account for the similarity of molecules, for evolution necessarily implies continuous change, and the molecule is incapable of growth or decay, of generation or destruction. None of the processes of Nature, since the time when Nature began, have produced the slightest difference in the properties of any molecule. We are therefore unable to ascribe either the existence of the molecules or the identity of their properties to any of the causes which we call natural. [1]
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 out of which these systems are built—the foundation-stones of the material universe—remain unbroken and unworn. They continue this day as they were created—perfect in number and measure and weight; and from the ineffaceable characters impressed on them we may learn that those aspirations after accuracy in measurement, and justice in action, which we reckon among our noblest attributes as men, are ours because they are [361] essential constituents of the image of Him who in the beginning created, not only the heaven and the earth, but the materials of which heaven and earth consist. [ibid]

He also wrote:

The true logic of this world is in the calculus of probabilities. [2]

and

The only laws of matter are those that our minds must fabricate and the only laws of mind are fabricated for it by matter.[3]

These quotations may be offered up in support of the idea that Maxwell was opposed to the theory of evolution, which was first made available to the world at the time. It should be noted, though, that biology was neither Maxwell's area of expertise, nor was evolution developed as a full scientific field at the time these comments were made.

Bibliography

Lewis Campbell and William Garnett, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell, London, Macmillan, 1882

References

  1. http://www.sonnetusa.com/bio/maxbio.pdf
  2. http://www.gluegrant.org/cam.htm
  3. http://thinkexist.com/quotation/the_only_laws_of_matter_are_those_that_our_minds/323604.html