The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell
This is the first biography in twenty years of James Clerk Maxwell, one of the greatest scientists of our time and yet a man relatively unknown to the wider public. Approaching science with a freshness unbound by convention or previous expectations, he produced some of the most original scientific thinking of the nineteenth century — and his discoveries went on to shape the twentieth century.
The man who bridged the gap between Newton and Einstein!!!
By Stephen Pletko "Uncle Stevie" - July 16, 2005
Who wrote these poetic lines?
"Trust me spring is very near, All the buds are swelling; All the glory of the year In those buds is dwelling."
The obvious answer is some famous poet. Right? Wrong! These are the lines in a poem written by a forgotten icon in science named James Clerk Maxwell (1831 to 1879). Learning that this great scientist was also a poet is just one of the facts you'll find in this extremely well organized, well-written, easy-to-read book authored by former engineer Basil Mahon.
Even before plunging into the main narrative, I was impressed with the material beforehand.
Take the table of contents. At a glance, I can tell you what happened anytime in Maxwell's life. For example, what happened between 1856 and 1860. I just have to glance at the table of contents. For chapter 6, it has the title "Saturn and Statistics: Aberdeen 1856-1860." (Saturn is the sixth planet in our solar... read more
Lacks a strong narrative, not enough science
By Joshua L. Soldati "Josh" - March 1, 2008
It is amazing that such a pivotal figure in physics remains relatively unknown to the public at large. I even asked a British friend of mine -- who actually went to Cambridge -- if he knew who James Clerk Maxwell was. He hadn't the foggiest.
So it's a shame that this narrow biography (barely 190 pages of actual content -- excluding end-notes, etc.) does not deliver a more compelling picture of both the man and the scientist.
A good biographer must do more than collect a series of chronological facts and array them in a sensible order; he must know how to tell a story. A science biographer has an even more daunting task -- he must tell the story of his subject while at the same time unraveling the wonder of scientific discovery. Mahon fails at both of these.
Mahon's style is factual and competent, but he fails to convey any essence of the man himself. Who was James Clerk Maxwell? I know where he lived, where he taught, and what he did, but I have... read more
A working man's scientist
By desert warrior "laser_mechanic" - June 20, 2005
Maxwell was a man for all times; unassuming till the end, but always striving to research something, to help others, to understand nature and technology. There is no telling what other gems he might have uncovered if he had not died relatively young.
The book does not mention Oliver Heaviside and other "maxwellians" who further interpreted and cleaned up his equations (from the nightmare quarternion to the practical vector spaces), but it is a tribute to his genius nonetheless. I enjoyed every page.