James Clerk Maxwell, Physicist and Philosopher

James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) was the Einstein and the Newton of 19th century science. Maxwell's name is well known by every modern physicist and physics student. Maxwell's equations provide the unifying basis for electromagnetism and light, and he also made fundamental contributions to statistical thermodynamics (the Maxwellian distribution, etc.) and the essential ideas involved in chaos theory. Thus he helped lay the groundwork in the areas of physics which are essential in my own fields of study: plasma physics, turbulence, and the quest for fusion energy. Indeed, the highest award given for research in this field is the American Physical Society's James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics.

It is awesome to consider that a man born in the primitive world of 1831 could have been so close to also discovering the mind-bending time puzzles of Relativity, as Maxwell's electromagnetic equations contain the seeds of Einstein's later theory...
Maxwell was a careful thinker, who also wrote about the broader philosophical and theological implications of his work. He was a devout and thoughtful Christian. Below are excerpts from some of his writings, as recorded in

An essay on Determinism and Free Will (1873), which contains the essential ideas of modern chaos theory and "sensitive dependence to initial conditions", and the implications this has for developing a world-view which includes free will.

An online bio of Maxwell.

Another online bio, including a digitized version of the 1882 biography by Campbell and Garnet. (Caution: the page numbering the pdf file and the original 1882 table of contents is different.)

The Poetry of James Clerk Maxwell