Amateur Radio News

A Very Happy Birthday to James Clerk Maxwell!

!James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish physicist born on June 13, 1831. He is best known for formulating the theory of electromagnetic radiation that he published in his Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field. Heinrich Hertz would later prove Maxwell’s theory using a spark-gap transmitter, and all things ham radio would stem from Maxwell’s highly consequential findings.

Maxwell’s theory posits that electricity, magnetism, electromagnetism, and light are all different manifestations of the same scientific phenomenon. The idea (now widely accepted) is that electric and magnetic fields travel through space as waves moving at the speed of light. These magnetic and electric waves travel perpendicular to each other and have characteristics that include wavelength, amplitude, and frequency and are the underlying components to how electrical energy is used in devices, methods, and systems—including radio.

Maxwell is considered to be the founder of the modern field of electric engineering. He helped develop the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution that used a statistical method to explain specific components of the kinetic theory of gasses. Maxwell is also credited with presenting the first durable color photograph in 1861 and is respected for his foundational analysis of the rigidity of rod-and-joint frameworks—commonly used in modern-day bridges. Albert Einstein found Maxwell’s work highly influential, describing it as “the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.”

During a visit to the University of Cambridge in 1922, a host of the program suggested to Einstein that he and his work stood on the shoulders of earlier work by Newton. Einstein promptly corrected the man saying, “No, I don’t. I stand on the shoulders of Maxwell.” Maxwell lived to be 48 years old, passing away on November 4, 1879.

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