Born innovative discoveries in areas such as radiation

Born into a wealthy family in 1831 in Edinburgh, Scotland, James
Clerk Maxwell possessed an extraordinary intellect, memorizing the entire Bible
and publishing a mathematical paper by the time he was fourteen. He attended
the University of Edinburgh at the age of sixteen, where he studied physics,
math, and philosophy. James Maxwell would go on to make innovative discoveries
in areas such as radiation and optics, which would impact society for years to

One of Maxwell’s many celebrated accomplishments was his
research on the relation of electricity, magnetism, and light, published “A
Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field” in 1865. In his paper, Maxwell
calculated how fast electromagnetic waves travel (i.e. electricity and
magnetism). He discovered that the velocities were equivalent to the speed of
light, and since nothing can surpass or equate the speed of light, Maxwell
reasoned that electricity, magnetism, and light were different forms of the
same force. Maxwell’s idea was an unprecedented theory, relating such fields
together and going against the current understanding of electromagnetic
radiation. Maxwell’s theory was the gateway to discovering the rest of the EM
spectrum, and it allowed scientists to begin research on ideas such as the radio,
television, and microwave. In addition to his work on radiation, Maxwell was
also interested in the human perception of light.

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In the area of optics, James Maxwell contributed greatly with
his research and experiments. He discovered the three colors that the human eye
detects—red, green, and blue, the primary colors of light, from which all other
visible light is composed. By using red, green, and blue filters on a camera
lens, Maxwell had three photos taken of a tartan ribbon and then layered the
images, creating the very first colored photo in 1861, which was the precursor
to colored photography. This understanding of additive color was essential to the
invention of colored images.

James Maxwell’s research and discoveries impacted the field
of physics, creating a lasting effect. In his advances on electromagnetic
radiation and optics, Maxwell furthered human knowledge and the world of
science, creating a legacy that should remain for generations.


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