A brief history of Maxwell's equations

by
in science on (#2VGP)
story imageIEEE Spectrum has an interesting and detailed article about the long road to Maxwell's equations. It's not a text full of lengthy demonstrations and mathematical jargon (don't worry there are still some formulas), if anything it's a story of physics and mathematics spread across the nineteenth century.

It explains how, from observations made by Faraday and others, Maxwell deduced a set of 20 complex equations describing the electrical and magnetic fields. These equations almost fell into oblivion because of both their complexity and the lack of experimental evidences for the brand new concepts introduced (e.g. electromagnetic waves can propagate without a medium, light is just one of them, etc.). They were only saved thanks to a few passionate scientists, the Maxwellians, notably Heaviside who managed to simplify and sum them up into the well-known 4 equations that we all read once in some introductory engineering or physics textbook.

Re: A great accomplishment (Score: 2, Funny)

by hartree@pipedot.org on 2014-12-03 01:51 (#2VHH)

" It's a shame everyone knows Einstein but only physicists know Maxwell."

You just have too little faith in the American public. Everyone knows that Einstein does bagels, and us old farts know that Maxwell is Agent 86!
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