James Clerk Maxwell quotes

  • In Science, it is when we take some interest in the great discoverers and their lives that it becomes endurable, and only when we begin to trace the development of ideas that it becomes fascinating.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Ideas #Development #Interest

  • It is of great advantage to the student of any subject to read the original memoirs on that subject, for science is always most completely assimilated when it is in the nascent state.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Science #Students #Advantage

  • 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.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Science #Careers #Space

  • The mathematical difficulties of the theory of rotation arise chiefly from the want of geometrical illustrations and sensible images, by which we might fix the results of analysis in our minds.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Illustration #Mind #Analysis

  • What's the go of that? What's the particular go of that?
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Science #Particular

  • All the mathematical sciences are founded on the relations between physical laws and laws of numbers.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Math #Law #Numbers

  • The 2nd law of thermodynamics has the same degree of truth as the statement that if you throw a tumblerful of water into the sea, you cannot get the same tumblerful of water out again.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Sea #Law #Water

  • The student who uses home made apparatus, which is always going wrong, often learns more than one who has the use of carefully adjusted instruments, to which he is apt to trust and which he dares not take to pieces.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Home #Use #Pieces

  • In every branch of knowledge the progress is proportional to the amount of facts on which to build, and therefore to the facility of obtaining data.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Data #Progress #Branches

  • Gases are distinguished from other forms of matter, not only by their power of indefinite expansion so as to fill any vessel, however large, and by the great effect heat has in dilating them, but by the uniformity and simplicity of the laws which regulate these changes.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Law #Simplicity #Matter

  • In speaking of the Energy of the field, however, I wish to be understood literally. All energy is the same as mechanical energy, whether it exists in the form of motion or in that of elasticity, or in any other form. The energy in electromagnetic phenomena is mechanical energy.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Words Of Wisdom #Wish #Energy

  • I have the capacity of being more wicked than any example that man could set me.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Men #Wicked #Example

  • Mathematicians may flatter themselves that they possess new ideas which mere human language is as yet unable to express.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Ideas #May #Language

  • And last of all we have the secondary forms of crystals bursting in upon us, and sparkling in the rigidity of mathematical necessity and telling us, neither of harmony of design, usefulness or moral significance, nothing but spherical trigonometry and Napier's analogies. It is because we have blindly excluded the lessons of these angular bodies from the domain of human knowledge that we are still in doubt about the great doctrine that the only laws of matter are those which our minds must fabricate, and the only laws of mind are fabricated for it by matter.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Law #Design #Doubt

  • If we betake ourselves to the statistical method, we do so confessing that we are unable to follow the details of each individual case, and expecting that the effects of widespread causes, though very different in each individual, will produce an average result on the whole nation, from a study of which we may estimate the character and propensities of an imaginary being called the Mean Man.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Character #Mean #Men

  • The theory I propose may therefore be called a theory of the Electromagnetic Field because it has to do with the space in the neighbourhood of the electric or magnetic bodies, and it may be called a Dynamical Theory, because it assumes that in the space there is matter in motion, by which the observed electromagnetic phenomena are produced.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Science #Space #Body

  • The only laws of matter are those that our minds must fabricate and the only laws of mind are fabricated for it by matter.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Law #Mind #Matter

  • In your letter you apply the word imponderable to a molecule. Don't do that again. It may also be worth knowing that the aether cannot be molecular. If it were, it would be a gas, and a pint of it would have the same properties as regards heat, etc., as a pint of air, except that it would not be so heavy.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Science #Air #Knowing

  • In fact, whenever energy is transmitted from one body to another in time, there must be a medium or substance in which the energy exists after it leaves one body and before it reaches the other ... and if we admit this medium as an hypothesis, I think it ought to occupy a prominent place in our investigations, and that we ought to endeavour to construct a mental representation of all the details of its action, and this has been my constant aim in this treatise.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Thinking #Substance #Body

  • Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing. We have reached the utmost limit of our thinking faculties when we have admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and self-existent it must have been created.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Thinking #Self #Atheism

  • All the mathematical sciences are founded on relations between physical laws and laws of numbers, so that the aim of exact science is to reduce the problems of nature to the determination of quantities by operations with numbers.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Determination #Law #Numbers

  • In the heavens we discover [stars] by their light, and by their light alone ... the sole evidence of the existence of these distant worlds ... that each of them is built up of molecules of the same kinds we find on earth. A molecule of hydrogen, for example, whether in Sirius or in Arcturus, executes its vibrations in precisely the same time. Each molecule therefore throughout the universe bears impressed upon it the stamp of a metric system as distinctly as does the metre of the Archives at Paris, or the royal cubit of the Temple of Karnac.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Stars #Light #Paris

  • The true logic of this world is in the calculus of probabilities.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Science #World #Logic

  • But when we face the great questions about gravitation Does it require time? Is it polar to the 'outside of the universe' or to anything? Has it any reference to electricity? or does it stand on the very foundation of matter-mass or inertia? then we feel the need of tests, whether they be comets or nebulae or laboratory experiments or bold questions as to the truth of received opinions.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Tests #Matter #Faces

  • I have also a paper afloat, with an electromagnetic theory of light, which, till I am convinced to the contrary, I hold to be great guns.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Science #Gun #Light

  • Natural causes, as we know, are at work, which tend to modify, if they do not at length destroy, all the arrangements and dimensions of the earth and the whole solar system. But though in the course of ages catastrophes have occurred and may yet occur in the heavens, though ancient systems may be dissolved and new systems evolved out of their ruins, the molecules [i.e. atoms] out of which these systems are built-the foundation stones of the material universe-remain unbroken and unworn.‎ They continue to this day as they were created-perfect in number and measure and weight.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Numbers #Perfect #Heaven

  • The University of Cambridge, in accordance with that law of its evolution, by which, while maintaining the strictest continuity between the successive phases of its history, it adapts itself with more or less promptness to the requirements of the times, has lately instituted a course of Experimental Physics.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Law #Requirements #Maintaining

  • It was a great step in science when men became convinced that, in order to understand the nature of things, they must begin by asking, not whether a thing is good or bad, noxious or beneficial, but of what kind it is? And how much is there of it? Quality and Quantity were then first recognised as the primary features to be observed in scientific inquiry.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Men #Order #Quality

  • An Experiment, like every other event which takes place, is a natural phenomenon; but in a Scientific Experiment the circumstances are so arranged that the relations between a particular set of phenomena may be studied to the best advantage.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #May #Events #Natural

  • Very few of us can now place ourselves in the mental condition in which even such philosophers as the great Descartes were involved in the days before Newton had announced the true laws of the motion of bodies.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Law #Mind #Body

  • The dimmed outlines of phenomenal things all merge into one another unless we put on the focusing-glass of theory, and screw it up sometimes to one pitch of definition and sometimes to another, so as to see down into different depths through the great millstone of the world.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Glasses #World #Definitions

  • The popularisation of scientific doctrines is producing as great an alteration in the mental state of society as the material applications of science are effecting in its outward life. Such indeed is the respect paid to science, that the most absurd opinions may become current, provided they are expressed in language, the sound of which recals [sic] some well-known scientific phrase.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Mind #Phrases #May

  • The experimental investigation by which Ampere established the law of the mechanical action between electric currents is one of the most brilliant achievements in science. The whole theory and experiment, seems as if it had leaped, full grown and full armed, from the brain of the 'Newton of Electricity'. It is perfect in form, and unassailable in accuracy, and it is summed up in a formula from which all the phenomena may be deduced, and which must always remain the cardinal formula of electro-dynamics.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Law #Perfect #Achievement

  • Thus number may be said to rule the whole world of quantity, and the four rules of arithmetic may be regarded as the complete equipment of the mathematician.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Numbers #World #Four

  • Accordingly, we find Euler and D'Alembert devoting their talent and their patience to the establishment of the laws of rotation of the solid bodies. Lagrange has incorporated his own analysis of the problem with his general treatment of mechanics, and since his time M. Poinsôt has brought the subject under the power of a more searching analysis than that of the calculus, in which ideas take the place of symbols, and intelligent propositions supersede equations.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Intelligent #Ideas #Law

  • Science appears to us with a very different aspect after we have found out that it is not in lecture rooms only, and by means of the electric light projected on a screen, that we may witness physical phenomena, but that we may find illustrations of the highest doctrines of science in games and gymnastics, in travelling by land and by water, in storms of the air and of the sea, and wherever there is matter in motion.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Mean #Gymnastics #Science

  • Thus science strips off, one after the other, the more or less gross materialisations by which we endeavour to form an objective image of the soul, till men of science, speculating, in their non-scientific intervals, like other men on what science may possibly lead to, have prophesied that we shall soon have to confess that the soul is nothing else than a function of certain complex material systems.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Science #Men #Soul

  • Colour as perceived by us is a function of three independent variables at least three are I think sufficient, but time will show if I thrive.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Independent #Thinking #Three

  • The equations at which we arrive must be such that a person of any nation, by substituting the numerical values of the quantities as measured by his own national units, would obtain a true result.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Results #Units #Equations

  • We shall see that the mathematical treatment of the subject [of electricity] has been greatly developed by writers who express themselves in terms of the 'Two Fluids' theory. Their results, however, have been deduced entirely from data which can be proved by experiment, and which must therefore be true, whether we adopt the theory of two fluids or not. The experimental verification of the mathematical results therefore is no evidence for or against the peculiar doctrines of this theory.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Data #Two #Doctrine

  • Thoroughly conscious ignorance is the prelude to every real advance in science.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Real #Ignorance #Conscious

  • I think men of science as well as other men need to learn from Christ, and I think Christians whose minds are scientific are bound to study science that their view of the glory of God may be as extensive as their being is capable. But I think that the results which each man arrives at in his attempts to harmonize his science with his Christianity ought not to be regarded as having any significance except to the man himself, and to him only for a time, and should not receive the stamp of a society.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Christian #Men #Thinking

  • The mind of man has perplexed itself with many hard questions. Is space infinite, and in what sense? Is the material world infinite in extent, and are all places within that extent equally full of matter? Do atoms exist or is matter infinitely divisible?
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Science #Men #Space

  • Ampere was the Newton of Electricity.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Newton #Electricity

  • One of the chief peculiarities of this treatise is the doctrine that the true electric current, on which the electromagnetic phenomena depend, is not the same thing as the current of conduction, but that the time-variation of the electric displacement must [also] be taken into account...
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Taken #Science #Doctrine

  • What, then, is light according to the electromagnetic theory? It consists of alternate and opposite rapidly recurring transverse magnetic disturbances, accompanied with electric displacements, the direction of the electric displacement being at the right angles to the magnetic disturbance, and both at right angles to the direction of the ray.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Science #Light #Opposites

  • We can scarcely avoid the inference that light consists in the transverse undulations of the same medium which is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Science #Light #Causes

  • Mathematicians may flatter themselves that they possess new ideas which mere human language is as yet unable to express. Let them make the effort to express these ideas in appropriate words without the aid of symbols, and if they succeed they will not only lay us laymen under a lasting obligation, but, we venture to say, they will find themselves very much enlightened during the process, and will even be doubtful whether the ideas as expressed in symbols had ever quite found their way out of the equations into their minds.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Science #Ideas #Effort

  • But I should be very sorry if an interpretation founded on a most conjectural scientific hypothesis were to get fastened to the text in Genesis... The rate of change of scientific hypothesis is naturally much more rapid than that of Biblical interpretations, so that if an interpretation is founded on such an hypothesis, it may help to keep the hypothesis above ground long after it ought to be buried and forgotten.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Sorry #Biblical #Long

  • ... that, in a few years, all great physical constants will have been approximately estimated, and that the only occupation which will be left to men of science will be to carry these measurements to another place of decimals.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Men #Years #Occupation

  • Heat may be generated and destroyed by certain processes, and this shows that heat is not a substance.
    -- James Clerk Maxwell

    #Substance #May #Heat