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William Thomson (1824-1907) also known as Lord Kelvin. William Thomson introduced many new inventions to the world of physics and aerodynamics.

Early Life

William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) was born on June 26, 1824 in Belfast, Ireland, he was the second son of four kids. kelvin had a father named James Thomson,LL.D., which became a professor of mathematics at the University of Glasgow. Kelvin's mother named Elizabeth McCauley had died when Kelvin was only six years old. His father later became a teaher of mathematics at the Royal Academical Insitution. After accepting the chair of mathematics at Glasgow, he migrated there with his to sons, James and William. This how only William only being ten years old, aquired such great education from his fathers instuction. In 1841, William entered Peterhouse, Cambridge and then in 1845 took his degree as secong wrangler. This led on to further great events in time.<ref>http://www.nndb.com/people/607/000050457/</ref>

Many students ask why William Thomson is also known as Lord Kelvin. According to this biography

For his work on the transatlantic cable Thomson was knighted in 1866 and made Baron Kelvin of Largs in 1892. The Kelvin is the river which runs through the grounds of Glasgow University and Largs is the town on the Scottish coast where Thomson built his house.

Early Studies

In 1841 Thomson entered Cambridge and in the same year his first paper was published. This paper Fourier's expansions of functions in trigonometrical series was written to defend Fourier's mathematics against criticism from the professor of mathematics at the university of Edinburgh. A more important paper On the uniform motion of heat and its connection with the mathematical theory of electricity was published in 1842 while Thomson was studying for the mathematical tripos examinations at Cambridge.

At Cambridge Thomson was coached by William Hopkins, a famous Cambridge coach who played a more important role than the lecturers. Despite the efforts of Babbage, Peacock and Herschel to introduce the new French mathematics into Cambridge, the style of the Mathematical Tripos taken by Thomson still left much to be desired. Herschel and Babbage had conducted some experiments on magnetism in 1825, developing methods introduced by Arago, but nothing on heat, electricity or magnetism had entered the syllabus of the Tripos.

Thomson took the final part of the Mathematical Tripos examinations in 1845. He graduated with a BA and he was Second Wrangler (ranked second in the list of those obtaining a First Class degree). Further examinations saw him become first Smith's prizeman and he was elected a fellow of Peterhouse. Also in 1845 Thomson read George Green's work which was to have a major influence on the direction of his research. His interest in the French approach, and advice from his father, meant that after taking his degree Thomson went to Paris. There he worked in the physical laboratory of Henri-Victor Regnault and he was soon taking part in deep discussions with Biot, Cauchy, Liouville, Dumas, and Sturm.

<ref>http://www.gap-system.org/~history/Mathematicians/Thomson.html</ref> <ref>J Z Buchwald, Biography in Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York 1970-1990). </ref>

When William and his older brother James were about eleven or twelve years old they showed high mental abilities while they were in school. In 1841 William entered St. Peter’s University and began to study mathematics like his father. He gained a reputation for brilliance when he wrote articles for the Cambridge Mathematical Journal. He entered a contest to win the Smith’s prize which was a mathematical award. When William won the Smith’s award he was offered to work as a professor at Glasgow which is what he wanted. He was twenty-two years old when he took the job and remained teaching at Glasgow University for fifty-three years. In 1852 Thomson studied what is now called the Joule- Thomson effect, which is the decrease in temperature of a gas when it expands


Scottish mathematician and physicist who contributed to many branches of physics. He was known for his self-confidence, and as an undergraduate at Cambridge he thought himself the sure "Senior Wrangler" (the name given to the student who scored highest on the Cambridge mathematical Tripos exam). After taking the exam he asked his servant, "Oh, just run down to the Senate House, will you, and see who is Second Wrangler." The servant returned and informed him, "You, sir!" (Campbell and Higgens, p. 98, 1984). Another example of his hubris is provided by his 1895 statement "heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible" (Australian Institute of Physics), followed by his 1896 statement, "I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning...I would not care to be a member of the Aeronautical Society." Kelvin is also known for an address to an assemblage of physicists at the British Association for the advancement of Science in 1900 in which he stated, "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." A similar statement is attributed to the American physicist Albert Michelson.

Kelvin argued that the key issue in the interpretation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics was the explanation of irreversible processes. He noted that if entropy always increased, the universe would eventually reach a state of uniform temperature and maximum entropy from which it would not be possible to extract any work. He called this the Heat Death of the Universe. With Rankine he proposed a thermodynamical theory based on the primacy of the energy concept, on which he believed all physics should be based. He said the two laws of thermodynamics expressed the indestructibility and dissipation of energy. He also tried to demonstrate that the equipartition theorem was invalid.

Thomson also calculated the age of the earth from its cooling rate and concluded that it was too short to fit with Lyell's theory of gradual geological change or Charles Darwin's theory of the evolution of animals though natural selection. He used the field concept to explain electromagnetic interactions. He speculated that electromagnetic forces were propagated as linear and rotational strains in an elastic solid, producing "vortex atoms" which generated the field. He proposed that these atoms consisted of tiny knotted strings, and the type of knot determined the type of atom. This led Tait to study the properties of knots. Kelvin's theory said ether behaved like an elastic solid when light waves propagated through it. He equated ether with the cellular structure of minute gyrostats. With Tait, Kelvin published Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1867), which was important for establishing energy within the structure of the theory of mechanics. (It was later republished under the title Principles of Mechanics and Dynamics by Dover Publications). <ref>Campbell, D. M. and Higgins, J. C. (Eds.). Mathematics: People, Problems, Results, 3 vols. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth International, 1984.</ref> ref>Kelvin, W. T. and Tait, P. G. Treatise on Natural Philosophy, 2 vols. Cambridge, England: University Press, 1867.</ref> <<ref>Kelvin, W. T. and Tait, P. G. Principles of Mechanics and Dynamics, 2 vols. New York: Dover, 1962. </ref><ref>Todhunter, I. and Pearson, K. A History of the Theory of Elasticity and of the Strength of Materials, from Galilei to Lord Kelvin, 2 vols. New York: Dover, 1960.</ref><ref>A Russell, Lord Kelvin, his life and work (London, 1939). </ref> === The Laws of Thermodynamics ==Law The Zeroth: Two systems in Thermal Equilibrium with a third are in Thermal Equilibrium with each other The property that characterizes Thermal Equilibrium is Temperature. The Lord Kelvin tells us that there is an ABSOLUTE Temperature! Since bodies that are in contact with each other will eventually reach Thermal Equilibrium, it follows that by being in contact with the Lord Kelvin we may come to be one with Him.

- Law The First: Energy Is Conserved The Lord Kelvin, in His infinite benevolence, has deigned that the total Energy Content of the Universe shall remain constant; never being Created nor Destroyed, but only Transformed from one form to another.

- Law The Second: Universal Entropy Incr Over the Universe as a whole, Entropy will increase. Entropy is that Energy that no longer is Ordered. It is Death of the most Absolute kind! All is susceptible to its Chilly Grasp: plants, animals, information, even The Human Soul! Sure, all those things, even our Souls, will have time until that happens; until the Universal Entropy consumes everything in the Great Heat Death, but THEN what? What will you do

- Law The Third: A Pure Crystal's Entropy Is Zero At Zero Kelvins The Purest Crystal of them all is The Lord Kelvin himself! The Lord Kelvin is without Entropy. Furthermore, since Absolute Zero is unattainable via a finite series of processes, it follows that the Lord Kelvin is Infinite! This implies that His powers are also Infinite, meaning that the Lord Kelvin can transcend His own Law The Second and Conserve you from Entropy!<ref>http://zapatopi.net/kelvin/</ref>

In his early 20’s he was made a member of the Royal Society after his creation of the absolute temperature scale, which is not surprisingly named after him. He then created the first physics lab at a British University, and his first major attempt at discovering something new included him trying to calculate the age of the Earth by estimating how long it would take for a earth sized sphere to cool to that day’s temperature <ref> Sarah K. Bolton 1889 “Famous Men of Science www.todaynsci.com/k/kelvin_lord/kelvin_lord1.htm </ref>. One of Kelvin’s famous pieces of work was his project with Tait to produce the famous text Treatise on Natural Philosophy, which they started to work on in the early 1860s. During his studies his studies on the age of our planet, he became interested in both heat and energy. Soon after that he met a man named James Joule, who was the author for most heat theories; both of them then started to work together and experimenting with heat and energy and with other types of gasses. After working and testing with different types of gasses, pressure, and volume Thomson created the absolute temperature scale <ref> January 28, 2009 www.Todayinsci.com </ref>. The absolute temperature was later on named after Thomson and called the Kelvin scale; the Kelvin scale starts with the lowest temperature possible and calls it absolute zero. He discovered how to determine the units of current in both the volt and ampere and established the measuring units known as the standard “ohm” by applying it to his measurements of the volt and ampere which resulted in Ohm’s Law. He played a part in wireless telegraphy by writing a paper which he delivered to the Glasgow’s Philosophical Society which supported the idea that it was possible to produce oscillatory current in a Leyden jar. He did some research that lead to the Law of Conservation of Energy-the sum total of all energy in the universe remains constant. William became involved in the development of telegraphic communication between England and America and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1866 for establishing a successful connection between the two places <ref> January 28,2009 www.scienceworld.com </ref>. Thomson created the mirror galvanometer which is now an important part of the equipment of a scientific laboratory. Thomson also created siphon recorder which replaced the mirror galvanometer. He created and improved the mariner’s compass which was used universally for sometime <ref> John Wood Morappe 1999 www.answersingenisis.com </ref>. He also created a system for lighthouses in which where each light could be distinguished from one another. He also made improvements in how ships were built, to make them safer, and more useful.

Kelvin Temperature Scale

main article: Temperature Scales

Later Years

Thomson published more than 600 papers. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1851, received its Royal Medal in 1856, received its Copley Medal in 1883 and served as its president from 1890 to 1895. In addition to his activities with the Royal Society, as one would expect of such an eminent Scottish professor, he served the Royal Society of Edinburgh over many years. He served three terms as president of this Society, first from 1873 to 1878, for the second time from 1886 to 1890, and for the third time from 1895 until his death in 1907. Thomson served as president of yet a third society when he was elected as president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1871. <ref>http://www.gap-system.org/~history/Biographies/Thomson.html</ref>

He was honored by governments, scientific societies, and universities from all over the world. He was president of the London Royal Society for five years, and of the Edinburgh Royal Society four times, and in 1896 Glasgow honored him for being a professor of National Philosophy at the University for half a century <ref> Mark Mccartney Article William Thomson:King of Victorian physics </ref>. Thomson remained as a professor for three years longer, and retired when he was seventy-five. He didn’t stop working though he retired and kept on working for eight years longer. William Thomson died on December 23, 1907 and was buried next to Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey.

Further Reading

Short Biography


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1<ref>.J Z Buchwald, Biography in Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York 1970-1990). </ref> 2.Biography in Encyclopaedia Britannica. [Available on the Web] 3.Obituary in The Times [available on the Web] Books:

4.E T King, Lord Kelvin's Early Home (1909). 5.D Murray, Lord Kelvin as Professor in the Old College Glasgow (Glasgow, 1924). 6.A Russell, Lord Kelvin, his life and work (London, 1939). 7.H I Sharlin and T Sharlin, Lord Kelvin: The Dynamic Victorian (1979). 8.C Smith and M N Wise, Energy and Empire: A Biographical Study of Lord Kelvin (1989). 9.S P Thomson, The Life of Lord Kelvin (London, 1976). 10.D B Wilson, Kelvin and Stokes: A Comparative Study in Victorian Physics (1987). 11.A P Young, Lord Kelvin, Physicist, Mathematician, Engineer (London, 1945). Articles:

12.P M C Dias, William Thomson and the heritage of caloric, Ann. of Sci. 53 (5) (1996), 511-520. 13.D Gooding, A convergence of opinion on the divergence of lines : Faraday and Thomson's discussion of diamagnetism, Notes and Records 14.Roy. Soc. London 36 (2) (1981/82), 243-259. 15.D Gooding, Faraday, Thomson, and the concept of the magnetic field, British J. Hist. Sci. 13 (44) (1980), 91-120. 16.B R Gossick, Heaviside and Kelvin : a study in contrasts, Ann. of Sci. 33 (3) (1976), 275-287. 17.F A J L James, The conservation of energy, theories of absorption and resonating molecules, 1851-1854 : G G Stokes, A J Angstrom and W 18.Thomson, Notes and Records Roy. Soc. London 38 (1) (1983), 79-107. 19.O Knudsen, Mathematics and physical reality in William Thomson's electromagnetic theory, in Wranglers and physicists (Manchester, 1985), 149-179. 19.D F Moyer, Continuum mechanics and field theory : Thomson and Maxwell, Studies in Hist. and Philos. Sci. 9 (1) (1978), 35-50. 20.E Procházková, William Thomson and the theory of the Faraday model of the electromagnetic field (Czech), DVT - Dejiny Veda Techniky 8 (1975), 22-29. 21.W Schreier, William Thomson - Lord Kelvin of Largs : ein Physiker im Spannungsfeld zwischen Grundlagen - und Industrieforschung im 22.Kapitalismus des 19. Jahrhunderts, NTM Schr. Geschichte Naturwiss. Tech. Medizin 12 (2) (1975), 108-114. 23.H I Sharlin, William Thomson's dynamical theory : an insight into a scientist's thinking, Ann. of Sci. 32 (1975), 133-147. 24.C Smith, Engineering the universe : William Thomson and Fleeming Jenkin on the nature of matter, Ann. of Sci. 37 (4) (1980), 387-412. 25.C Smith, Natural philosophy and thermodynamics : William Thomson and 'The dynamical theory of heat', British J. Hist. Sci. 9 (33) (3) (1976), 293-319. 26.C Watson, William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), in Some nineteenth century British scientists (Oxford, 1969), 96-153. 27.M N Wise, The flow analogy to electricity and magnetism. I : William Thomson's reformulation of action at a distance, Arch. Hist. Exact Sci. 25 (1) (1981), 19-70.