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14/06/15 00:01

Celebration of science

Marking the birthday of scientific pioneer James Clerk Maxwell.

Further light will be shed on the work of Scottish science hero James Clerk Maxwell with new information boards in the heart of Edinburgh city centre.

As Glasgow Science Festival marks the great physicist’s birthday this weekend – he was born on June 13, 1831 – it has been confirmed that new boards will be put in place close to Maxwell’s statute on George Street.

Minister for Learning and Science Dr Alasdair Allan said the Scottish Government has provided £10,000 for the boards as part of the UNESCO International Year of Light celebrations which marks the 150th anniversary of one of Maxwell’s most famous theories.

He added:

“The legacy of James Clerk Maxwell’s pioneering work is all around us. His electromagnetic theory enabled virtually all modern electronic, radio and photonic technologies – smart phones, colour photography and x-rays all depend on his work.

“Our science centres and festivals have been hosting a range of events to remind visitors from around the country and beyond what a great contribution Maxwell made to science and society. The huge impact of his work is the perfect example of how an interest in science can change the way you perceive the world.

“These boards will be a physical legacy and explain to people passing his statue in Edinburgh why the science community reveres him, with tributes from Einstein to Nobel Laureate Richard Fenman describing Maxwell’s discovery of the laws of electrodynamics being the most significant event of the 19th century.”

In January the Scottish Government announced £50,000 additional funding for the four national science centres to stage events linked to the iconic physicist

The International Year of Light 2015 is a global initiative adopted by the United Nations to raise awareness on how optical technologies are crucial to solving challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.

The 150th anniversary of Clerk Maxwell’s theory of classical electromagnetism is part of the reason for the celebration’s being held this year.

Notes to editors

James Clerk Maxwell (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879)

• Maxwell is best known for his research in electromagnetic radiation, which unites the sciences of electricity, magnetism and optics.
• Maxwell saw analogies between the speeds of travel of electromagnetic waves and of light, and devised four important mathematical equations which formulated these and other relationships between electricity and magnetism. His theory of classical electromagnetism (1865) demonstrates that electricity, magnetism and light are all manifestations of the same phenomenon, namely the electromagnetic field and that energies resides in fields as well as bodies. This pointed the way to the application of electromagnetic radiation for such present-day uses as radio, television, radar, microwaves and thermal imaging.
• Maxwell’s work has also led to the medical application of X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in diagnosis and treatment of Cancers.
• Maxwell contributed to the field of optics and the study of colour vision, creating the foundation for practical colour photography. From 1855 to 1872, he published at intervals a series of valuable investigations concerning the perception of colour, colour-blindness and colour theory.