Saturday, November 5, 2011

James Clerk Maxwell

Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell died this day, November 5th, in 1879. Maxwell is remembered most for his theory of electromagnetic fields.  He is less well known for his love of Scottish poetry, though he even wrote some of his own.  This affinity is one he held in common with Sir Walter Scott, but their lives overlapped by only one year, and there is a connection more contemporary with Scott’s era.  Maxwell’s grandfather, Robert Hodshon Cay was a friend of Sir Walter’s.  

John Gibson Lockhart mentions Cay in his “Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott”.  ‘…I ought to have mentioned before, that in June, 1795, he [Scott] was appointed one of the curators of the Advocates' Library, an office always reserved for those members of the Faculty who have the reputation of superior zeal in literary affairs. He had for colleagues David Hume, the Professor of Scots Law, and Malcolm Laing, the historian; and his discharge of his functions must have given satisfaction, for I find him further nominated, in March, 1796, together with Mr. Robert Hodgson Cay—an accomplished gentleman, afterwards Judge of the Admiralty Court in Scotland—to "put the Faculty's cabinet of medals in proper arrangement."…’

The James Clerk Maxwell Foundation has much that is worth knowing about Maxwell on their website:

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