James Clerk Maxwell

James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish physicist with a love of poetry, actually writing some of his own to describe his theories. This would have helped more if: A) Anyone read his poetry (or cared). B) He were not a crappy poet.

Maxwell, his beard, and his dog, Toby. Also, some lady he married.

Just The Facts

  1. J.C. Maxwell helped create classical electromagnetic theory, and is considered one of the most brilliant physicists ever (alongside Newton and Einstein).
  2. Maxwell fancied himself a poet, and belonged to a group of poets that called themselves the Apostles. Because there were twelve of them. Seriously.
  3. Maxwell's dog is named Toby.
  4. Maxwell once summoned a demon that could make ice colder in an oven.

The Man Who Is Smarter (or Crazier) Than You

James Clerk Maxwell is one of the most respected physicists of the modern era. He was an anti-positivist, meaning he didn't believe in objective reality. This can be explained by the fact that his main inspiration was a man named Michael Faraday, who didn't know any mathematics and had a degenerative illness that caused him to lose his short-term memory by his 30's.

Also, Maxwell really liked poetry, and wrote some to teach his own students physics. Behold, the opening stanza to one of his many works, entitled "Molecular Evolution:"

At quite uncertain times and places,
The atoms left their heavenly path,
And by fortuitous embraces,
Engendered all that being hath.
And though they seem to cling together,
And form "associations" here,
Yet, soon or late, they burst their tether,
And through the depths of space career.

Yes, Maxwell actually wrote that. Yes, Maxwell is one of the most respected physicists ever. No, most physicists do not want to think about him being akin to a lonely goth scrawling poetry all over her MySpace page.

Obviously, a lot of people thought he was a nutcase, and he didn't have very many followers while he lived, mostly because nobody understood what the hell he was talking about. You see, he believed in "mixed mathematics," which means that, in order to understand what he was talking about, you had to understand his math (which he made up) and his rants (taking the form of the aforementioned poetry). Since physicists react to poetry the way bacteria react to disinfectant, and poets tend to shut down from any equation that is more complicated than "2 apples plus 2 apples equals a whole bunch of fruit," it turns out that there are probably three people alive who actually understand the entirety of Maxwell's theories.

So sally forth, good gentlemen! Read your poetry, learn your mathematics! Soon you will know the glory of Maxwell!


Oh, who the hell are we kidding? You're just going to go look at porn.