Title page to 'A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism' by J C Maxwell, 1873.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) was one of the greatest theoretical physicists the world has ever known. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. After graduating in 1854, he became a profesor first at Aberdeen (1856) and then at King's College, London (1860). He was also the first Cavendish Profesor of Physics at Cambridge University (1871). Maxwell's most important work was on the theory of electromagnetic radiation, and in 1873 he published 'A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism'. He also formulated the kinetic theory of gases. His work is considered to have paved the way for Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and Max Planck (1858-1947).