Traveling with the Atom

Allegheny College

(compiled by Dr.Glen E. Rodgers)



1991 San Marino stamp 
James Clerk Maxwell
Scottish Physicist
Maxwell and his wife Katherine

Contribution to the Development of the Atomic Concept
James Clerk Maxwell's principal contribution to the atomic concept had to do with his theory of electromagnetism.  His mathematical laws of electrodynamics, formulated between 1864 and 1873, describe the phenomenon of electromagnetic radiation and build directly upon the earlier speculations of Michael Faraday.  Maxwell's laws predict that any system in which a charged particle orbits about an oppositely charged particle (for example, an electron orbiting about the nucleus) should emit light at a frequency related to the radius of the orbiting particle.  In the case of an orbiting electron, his theory predicted that the electron would spiral into the nucleus in a very small fraction of a second.  His laws were well established at the time that Rutherford proposed the nuclear atom and the orbiting electron was a model that lasted only for a few years before it was replaced by the stationary states of Neils Bohr and, ultimately, by the quantum mechanical atom.  Maxwell also co-formulated (along with Ludwig Boltzmann who worked independently) the kinetic theory of gases.

Web Sources of Biographical Information
Who Was James Clerk Maxwell?
The James Clerk Maxwell Foundation
James Clerk Maxwell
University of St. Andrews
Malaspina Great Books Website on
James Clerk Maxwell

Selected Biographical Books, Sections of Books, and Articles
Full biographical information on Sacks' book Uncle Tungsten p 140; pp 167-169; 296
Full biographical information on Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 2nd Ed. pp 454-456
Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism
by James Clerk Maxwell
Maxwell on the Electromagnetic Field : A Guided Study (Masterworks of Discovery), by Thomas K. Simpson, Anne Farrell (Illustrator)

Some Scientific/Historical Traveling Sites
Maxwell birthplace. Click here to see the sign outside the door of the house(1,2) 14 India Street, Edinburgh, Scotland
Glenlair, the Maxwell Estate (destroyed by fire in 1929).  Maxwell wrote his Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism here between 1868 and 1871(1,2) About five miles from the village of Parton
Church where the Maxwell's worshipped;  Maxwell, his father, mother, and his wife Katherine are buried in the ruins of the old chapel (the "Old Kirk") A plaque in the front of the church honors Maxwell and calls him "a good man, full of humour and wisdom. *(1,2) The village of Parton, Scotland
A church built "through the influence and exertion of Maxwell's father" (1); contains a stained glass window installed to honor James Clerk Maxwell * (1,2) The village of Corsock, Scotland
* see following Rodgers link to scientific/historical sites for further information.
(1) Taken from The Scientific Traveler, Charles Tanford and Jacqueline, John Wiley & Sons, NY (1992).
(2) Taken from A Travel Guide to Scientific Sites of the British Isles, Charles Tanford and Jacqueline Reynolds, John Wiley & Sons, NY (1995).
(3) Taken from Guide of Eurpoean Museums with collections on History of Chemistry, compiled by Jan W. van Spronsen, Federation of European Societies, Antwerp (1996)

Link to Dr. Rodgers' Scientific/Historical Sites on Maxwell.
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