James Clerk Maxwell was  hailed as the No 1 Scientist in a National Library of Scotland poll, and the 4th most important topic in Scotland’s History by a BBC poll.

Scottish Parliament Debate on
James Clerk Maxwell
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James Clerk Maxwell

The year 2006 marked the 175th anniversary of the birth of James Clerk Maxwell, a Scot whose ideas increasingly electrify, magnetize and change the world today.

Placeholder  Image“Maxwell's importance in the history of scientific thought is comparable to Einstein’s (whom he inspired) and to Newton’s (whose influence he curtailed)”
Ivan Tolstoy, biographer of Maxwell

James Clerk Maxwell himself (in 1864) said:
“We have strong reason to conclude that light itself - including radiant heat and other radiation, if any - is an electromagnetic disturbance in the form of waves propagated through the electro-magnetic field according to electro-magnetic laws.”

On which Professor RV Jones commented: “This paper is the first pointer to the existence of radiation other than light and heat, and ranks as one of the greatest leaps ever achieved in human thought.”

A consortium of civic, university, learned society and educational bodies  planned a series of events during the year to bring the little known achievements of James Clerk Maxwell  before young people and a wider general public.

These events, in the form of lectures and dynamic demonstrations, extended from April to December 2006 in city venues open to the public and in schools as well as other places with which he was associated.  Details are shown on the events page.

Other significant events during the year were:

- James Clerk Maxwell was placed 4th by the public vote in
Scotland's History - The Top Ten’. This was a BBC Scotland TV series, which took stock of Scotland's past to define the top 10 events that have shaped our nation.  James Clerk Maxwell, nominated by Bruce Borthwick, featured in the first programme.  The results were broadcast on 30th November 2006 (BBC2 Scotland).  Visit the programme website, where you can  view the programmes on line..

-'The Scottish Science Hall of Fame'  JCM has been voted into No 1 position in a poll to determine the “10 scientists from the past whose achievements stand out from the rest”.  This project is organised by the National Library of Scotland (Further information in Press Coverage)

-’In Search of Maxwell’ - Microwave Journal published an interesting article by James Rautio about his JCM Pilgrimage to Scotland in 2005. 

-World-class Award for E-Pioneers:  The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), Wolfson Microelectronics plc and The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) have teamed-up to create  the ‘James Clerk Maxwell Award’ to encourage and reward transforming developments in electronics and electrical engineering or related fields which are profoundly improving people’s lives. 
See Press Coverage for more information

- Scottish Parliament  debated a motion on James Clerk Maxwell
(See below).  Contributions to the debate were of a very high standard and the the official written report may be viewed online on the Scottish Parliament website. 

-The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded  43,300 to Maxwell Year 2006, which is chiefly being used to fund the development of the 3D multimedia presentation.  The presentation was made by Mark Lazarowicz MP, see photo
-Maxwell Year 2006 acknowledged in  the UK Parliament - see below.

Mark Lazarowicz, Member of Parliament for Edinburgh North and Leith,
has tabled  Early Day Motion 2048 in the UK Parliament as follows

That this House notes the 175th anniversary of the birth in Edinburgh on 13th June 1831 of the great Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell; notes that by discovering the nature of electromagnetic waves he paved the way for radio, television, radar and the mobile telephone; acknowledges the tributes paid to him by Max Planck who described his theory as `one of the greatest triumphs of human intellectual endeavour' and Einstein who said `One scientific epoch ended and another began with James Clerk Maxwell'; congratulates the James Clerk Maxwell Foundation on preserving his birthplace in Edinburgh and promoting the study of science by young people; further notes the programme of events to honour Maxwell in this anniversary year; and encourages all who wish to learn more to visit the website at www.maxwellyear2006.org

Click here for a list of the 108 MPs who support this motion.

Alex Fergusson, Member of Scottish Parliament for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, has
 tabled Motion S2M-4337#, debated in The Scottish Parliament on June 28th, as follows

That the Parliament acknowledges the 175th anniversary of the birth of James Clerk Maxwell on 13 June 2006; recognises his great achievement in discovering the nature of electromagnetic waves which opened the way to the invention of television, radio, radar and the mobile phone; applauds his work on colour perception which enabled the successful development of colour television and colour photography, and believes that he is worthy of greater recognition throughout Scotland, given the acknowledgement of Albert Einstein, who said that “the special theory of relativity owes its origins to Maxwell’s equations of the electromagnetic field”, and of Ivan Tolstoy, who wrote “Maxwell’s importance in the history of scientific thought is comparable to Einstein’s (whom he inspired) and to Newton’s (whose influence he curtailed)”.

Read Official Report

The tallest mountain on Venus is named Maxwell Montes, in honour of James Clerk Maxwell. 

It is 12,000 metres (39,370ft) above the planet's average surface and is the only feature on Venus named after a male (the rest are named after real or mythological females).

It is very fitting that the European Space Agency’s Venus Express satellite entered into orbit in the Maxwell anniversary year.

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