NEMIG: 'Life and times of James Clerk Maxwell and his remarkable relatives' - David Forfar - 23rd February 2016

Abstract: The talk will be partly about James Clerk Maxwell, FRSE, FRS the man and the extraordinary fact (not commented and probably not known to any biographer) that Clerk Maxwell had no less than 12 relatives who where FRSEs, FRSs or both and 6 relatives whose portraits were painted by the famous Scottish portrait painter Sir Henry Raeburn who portraits hang in National Galleries throughout the world. This extraordinary fact stands alongside the contrast that Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein (in whose company Maxwell stands) more or less come out of nowhere.

The talk will also be about Maxwell's immense scientific achievements - Maxwell’s Equations (invariance under the Lorentz transform not the Galilean transfer, Einstein Special Relativity given ‘on a plate’ as its all there hidden in Maxwell's Equations) , First Colour Photograph, Colour Top, Colour Triangle, Statistical Mechanics (although the individual equations are time reversible, the law governing an aggregation of large bodies is not time reversible – entropy – 2nd Law of Thermodynamics - so something strange going on?), Maxwell Distribution of velocities, Stability Saturn’s Rings (linearise equations, for stability real part of solution of characteristic equation has to be negative, discrete particles, Cassini, resolution of individual blocks insufficient but when will we get sight of the individual blocks of ice/rock,), start of Information Theory (Maxwell’s Demon), start of Control Theory (Cybernetics), important methods in Structural Mechanics (Maxwell/von Mises criterion for Plastic Flow, Photo-elasticity, determining Stresses in Deterministic and Non-Deterministic Frames) etc.

Bio: David Forfar, Chairman of the James Clerk Maxwell Foundation (Scottish charity) which owns Maxwell's house at 14 India Street and my interest in Clerk Maxwell arises because I was also educated at the Edinburgh Academy, then went to Trinity College, Cambridge and did the Maths. Tripos. (i.e. same school, university, college, subject, class of degree, FRSE as Clerk Maxwell!) but there the similarity ends because I became an actuary, the Appointed Actuary of Scottish Widows (large insurance company) and not a Professor at a university! But after Scottish Widows, I taught (and supervised MSc Thesis) at both Edin. Univ. and Heriot-Watt Univ. I now do consulting actuarial work (mostly for free!). I have written extensively about Clerk Maxwell and all my articles are here;.

David Forfar - recorded Screen and audio - 1 hour 3 minutes.

David Forfar - recorded from video camera - 1 hour 3 minutes.

Last modified 13/01/2020 by IGC