James Clerk Maxwell - Студенческий научный форум

XI Международная студенческая научная конференция Студенческий научный форум - 2019

James Clerk Maxwell

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James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)

James Clerk Maxwell was born June 13, 1831, Edinburgh, Scotland, and died November 5, 1879, Cambridge, England - British physicist, mathematician and mechanic. Scotsman by origin. Member of the Royal Society of London (1861).

Biography

James Clerk Maxwell laid the foundations of modern classical electrodynamics (Maxwell's equations), introduced the notion of displacement current and electromagnetic field into physics. One of the founders of the kinetic theory of gases (established the distribution of gas molecules over velocities). He was one of the first to introduce statistical concepts into physics, showed the statistical nature of the second law of thermodynamics ("Maxwell's demon"), obtained a number of important results in molecular physics and thermodynamics. Pioneer of quantitative theory of colors; author of the three-color principle of color photography. Among the other works of Maxwell are studies in mechanics (photoelasticity, Maxwell's theorem in the theory of elasticity, work in the theory of stability of motion, analysis of stability of the rings of Saturn), optics, mathematics. He prepared for publication the manuscript of the works of Henry Cavendish, paid much attention to the popularization of science, constructed a number of scientific instruments. James Clerk Maxwell belonged to the old Scottish clan of the Clerks of Penicuw (English Penicui). His father, John Clerk Maxwell, was the owner of the family estate Middleby in South Scotland (the second name Maxwell reflects this fact).

Childhood

From early childhood, he showed interest in the world around him, was surrounded by various "scientific toys" (for example, the "magic disk" - the predecessor of cinematography, the model of the celestial sphere, the gyroscope - "devil", etc.), learned much from communication with his father, was fond of poetry and made his first poetry experiments. Only at the age of ten he had a specially hired home teacher, but such training proved ineffective, and in November 1841 Maxwell moved to his aunt Isabella, his father's sister, in Edinburgh. Here he entered a new school - the so-called Edinburgh Academy, which focused on classical education - studying Latin, Greek and English, Roman literature and Holy Scripture.

Students

Initially, the study did not attract Maxwell, but gradually he felt her taste and became the best student of the class. At that time he was carried away by geometry, he made polyhedra out of cardboard. His understanding of the beauty of geometric images grew after the lecture of the artist David Ramzai Hei. Reflections on this topic led Maxwell to the invention of a way of drawing ovals. This method, which went back to the works of Rene Descartes, consisted of using pins-tricks, threads and a pencil, which made it possible to construct circles (one focus), ellipses (two focuses) and more complex oval figures (more focuses). These results were reported by Professor James Forbes at a meeting of the Edinburgh Royal Society and then published in his Proceedings.

After passing the exam, Maxwell decided to stay in Cambridge to prepare for the professorship. By the same time, a comic experimental study of "confusion", included in Cambridge folklore, was aimed at determining the minimum height, falling from which the cat stands on four legs.

However, the main scientific interest of Maxwell at this time was work on the theory of colors. It originates in the works of Isaac Newton, who adhered to the idea of ​​the seven primary colors. Important information contained evidence of patients with color blindness, or color blindness. In experiments on color mixing, which in many ways independently repeated the experiments of Hermann Helmholtz, Maxwell applied a "color top", the disk of which was divided into sectors of different colors, as well as the "color box" developed by the optical system itself, which allowed to mix the reference colors. Similar devices have been used before, but only Maxwell began to obtain with their help quantitative results and accurately predict the resulting color mixing.

"The main philosophical value of physics is that it gives the brain something definite, something you can rely on. If you find yourself somewhere wrong, nature itself will immediately tell you about it.”

So, he demonstrated that the blending of blue and yellow colors does not give green, as often believed, but a pinkish hue. Maxwell's experiments showed that white color can not be obtained by mixing blue, red and yellow, as believed by David Brewster, and some other scientists, and the main colors are red, green and blue.

May 17, 1861, at a lecture at the Royal Institute on the theory of the three primary colors, Maxwell presented yet another convincing proof of the correctness of his theory, the world's first color photograph, the idea of which he had born in 1855. Together with photographer Thomas Sutton, three negatives of a colored ribbon on glass covered with photographic emulsion (collodion).

Negatives were removed through green, red and blue filters (solutions of salts of various metals). Illuminating then negatives through the same filters, it was possible to get a color image. As it was shown after almost one hundred years by the employees of Kodak firm, recreating the conditions of Maxwell's experience, the available photographic materials did not allow to demonstrate a color photograph and, in particular, to get red and green images. By a happy coincidence, Maxwell's image was formed as a result of mixing quite different colors - waves in the blue range and near ultraviolet. Nevertheless, Maxwell's experiment contained the correct principle of obtaining color photography, which was used many years later, when light-sensitive dyes were opened.

However, Maxwell's much more attention at this time was drawn to the study of the nature of the rings of Saturn, proposed in 1855 by the University of Cambridge for the Adams Award (the work had to be completed in two years). Having carried out a mathematical analysis of various variants of the structure of rings, Maxwell saw that they can not be either solid or liquid (in the latter case, the ring would quickly collapse, disintegrating into droplets). He came to the conclusion that such a structure can only be stable if it consists of a swarm of unrelated meteorites. The stability of the rings is ensured by their attraction to Saturn and the mutual motion of the planet and meteorites. With the help of Fourier analysis, Maxwell studied the propagation of waves in such a ring and showed that under certain conditions, meteorites do not collide with each other. For the case of two rings, he determined at what ratio of their radii the state of instability sets in. For this work in 1857, Maxwell received the Adams award, but continued to work on this topic, which resulted in the publication in 1859 of the treatise "On the stability of the motion of the rings of Saturn" (On the stability of the motion of the rings of Saturn's rings). This work was immediately recognized in the scientific community. The Royal Astronomer George Airy declared her to be the most brilliant application of mathematics to physics that he had ever seen and is "the first work on the theory of collective processes performed at the modern level."

As noted by Rudolf Peierls, work Maxwell's theory of the electromagnetic field promoted the adoption of the idea of ​​the field as such, which found wide application in the physics of the 20th century. "The importance of the field concept in Maxwell's works was pointed out in his popular book Evolution of Physics by Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld: The formulation of these equations is the most important event since the time of Newton, not only because of the value of their content, but also because they give an example of a new type of laws. A characteristic feature of the Maxwell equations, which manifests itself in all other equations of modern physics, can be expressed in one sentence: Maxwell's equations are laws expressing the field structure ... The theoretical discovery of an electromagnetic wave propagating at the speed of light is one of the greatest achievements in the history of science. "Einstein also acknowledged that" the theory of relativity owes its origin to the Maxwell equations for the electromagnetic field. "

The significance of Maxwell's work in the history of science

Although Maxwell's contribution to the development of physics (especially electrodynamics) was not properly appreciated during his lifetime, in the following years he became aware of the true place of his works in the history of science. Many large scientists have noted this in their assessments. Thus, Max Planck drew attention to the universality of Maxwell as a scientist:

Maxwell's great thoughts were not an accident: they naturally flowed from the wealth of his genius; This is best proved by the fact that he was a pioneer in the most diverse branches of physics, and in all its sections he was a connoisseur and teacher.

However, according to Planck, it is Maxwell's work on electromagnetism that is the pinnacle of his work:

... in the doctrine of electricity his genius appears before us in his full grandeur. It was in this area, after years of quiet research, Maxwell's share of such success that we should rank among the most amazing acts of the human spirit. He managed to entice nature, as a result of pure thinking alone, with secrets that only a whole generation later, and only partially managed to be shown in witty and time-consuming experiments.

reference

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