Posts Tagged ‘Faraday’

In an interesting exercise, The Guardian newspaper recently drew up a list of the “10 best physicists”. I don’t think the list they compiled is in any particular order, but here it is.


  1. Isaac Newton (1643-1727)
  2. Niels Bohr (1885-1962)
  3. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
  4. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
  5. James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)
  6. Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
  7. Marie Curie (1867-1934)
  8. Richard Feynman (1918-1988)
  9. Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)
  10. Paul Dirac (1902-1984)


How many of these names do you recognise? Whilst some are “household names”, others are maybe only known to physicists.

Over the next several months I will post a blog about each of these entries, giving more details of what their contribution(s) to physics were. Any such list is, of course, bound to promote discussion and disagreement, and I can also see that “The Guardian” have also allowed readers to nominate their own names.




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You can read more about the physicists in this “10 best” list in our book 10 Physicists Who Transformed Our Understanding of the UniverseClick here for more details and to read some reviews.


Ten Physicists Who Transformed Our Understanding of Reality is available now. Follow this link to order

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In May I was in Edinburgh to compete in the Edinburgh marathon. On the day after the marathon I did a sight-seeing tour of Edinburgh. One of the things I saw was a statue to the Scottish mathematical physicist James Clerk Maxwell. The statue is at the Saint Andrew Square end of George Street, abut 300 metres from the famous Princes Street.

James Clerk Maxwell(1831-1879).

The statue of James Clerk Maxwell, which is at the Saint Andrew Square end of George Street.

James Clerk Maxwell was an important physicist and mathematician. His most prominent achievement was to formulate the equations of classical electromagnetic theory. These four equations are known as Maxwell’s equations. They are shown on a small plaque at the rear of the statue’s plinth.

The rear of the statue’s plinth. The larger plaque is illustrated in the bottom photograph. Below this is a small plaque with Maxwell’s four famous equations of electromagnetism.

Maxwell’s four equations, which I have written out below.

\boxed{   \begin{array}{lcll}  \nabla \cdot \vec{D} & = & \rho  & (1) \\   & & & \\  \nabla \cdot \vec{B} & = & 0 & (2) \\   & & & \\  \nabla \times \vec{E} & = & - \frac{\partial \vec{B}}{\partial t}  & (3) \\   & & & \\  \nabla \times \vec{H} & = & - \frac{\partial \vec{D}}{\partial t} + \vec{J} & (4)  \end{array}   }

These equations are written in differential form, where the symbol \nabla is known as the vector differential operator. I will explain the mathematics of vector differential operator, and the meaning of each equation, in a series of future blogs.

The four equations can also be written in integral form, which many people find easier to understand. In integral form, the equations become

\boxed{  \begin{array}{lcll}  \iint_{\partial \Omega} \vec{D} \cdot d\vec{S}&  = & Q_{f}(V) & (5) \\   & & & \\  \iint_{\partial \Omega} \vec{B} \cdot d\vec{S} & = & 0 & (6) \\   & & & \\  \oint_{\partial \Sigma} \vec{E} \cdot d\vec{\l} & = - & \iint_{\Sigma} \frac{\partial \vec{B} }{\partial t} \cdot d\vec{S} & (7) \\   & & & \\  \oint_{\partial \Sigma} \vec{H} \cdot d\vec{l} & = & I_{f} + \iint_{\Sigma} \frac{\partial \vec{D} }{\partial t} \cdot d\vec{S} & (8)   \end{array} }

The inscription on the front of the statue’s plinth. It reads “James Clerk Maxwell 1831-1879”.

The larger plaque on the back of the plinth.

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