Early life and work
FamilyWilliam Thomson's father, James Thomson, was a teacher of mathematics and engineering at the and the son of a farmer. James Thomson married Margaret Gardner in 1817 and, of their children, four boys and two girls survived infancy. Margaret Thomson died in 1830 when William was six years old. William and his elder brother were tutored at home by their father while the younger boys were tutored by their elder sisters. James was intended to benefit from the major share of his father's encouragement, affection and financial support and was prepared for a career in engineering. In 1832, his father was appointed professor of mathematics at Glasgow and the family moved there in October 1833. The Thomson children were introduced to a broader cosmopolitan experience than their father's rural upbringing, spending mid-1839 in London and the boys were tutored in French in Paris. Much of Thomson's life during the mid-1840s was spent in and the . Language study was given a high priority. His sister, Anna Thomson, was the mother of (1845–1926).
YouthThomson had heart problems and nearly died when he was 9 years old. He attended the , where his father was a professor in the university department, before beginning study at Glasgow University in 1834 at the age of 10, not out of any precociousness; the University provided many of the facilities of an elementary school for able pupils, and this was a typical starting age. In school, Thomson showed a keen interest in the classics along with his natural interest in the sciences. At the age of 12 he won a prize for translating 's ''Dialogues of the Gods'' from to English. In the academic year 1839/1840, Thomson won the class prize in for his ''Essay on the figure of the Earth'' which showed an early facility for mathematical analysis and creativity. His physics tutor at this time was his namesake, David Thomson. Throughout his life, he would work on the problems raised in the essay as a strategy during times of personal stress. On the title page of this essay Thomson wrote the following lines from 's '' Essay on Man''. These lines inspired Thomson to understand the natural world using the power and method of science: Thomson became intrigued with ''Théorie analytique de la chaleur'' and committed himself to study the "Continental" mathematics resisted by a British establishment still working in the shadow of Sir . Unsurprisingly, Fourier's work had been attacked by domestic mathematicians, authoring a critical book. The book motivated Thomson to write his first published under the pseudonym ''P.Q.R.'', defending Fourier, and submitted to the ''Cambridge Mathematical Journal'' by his father. A second P.Q.R. paper followed almost immediately. While on holiday with his family in in 1841, he wrote a third, more substantial P.Q.R. paper ''On the uniform motion of heat in homogeneous solid bodies, and its connection with the mathematical theory of electricity''. In the paper he made remarkable connections between the mathematical theories of and , an that was ultimately to describe as one of the most valuable ''science-forming ideas.''
CambridgeWilliam's father was able to make a generous provision for his favourite son's education and, in 1841, installed him, with extensive letters of introduction and ample accommodation, at . While at Cambridge, Thomson was active in sports, athletics and , winning the Colquhoun Sculls in 1843. He also took a lively interest in the classics, music, and literature; but the real love of his intellectual life was the pursuit of science. The study of , physics, and in particular, of electricity, had captivated his imagination. In 1845 Thomson graduated as . He also won the First , which, unlike the , is a test of original research. , one of the examiners, is said to have declared to another examiner "You and I are just about fit to mend his pens." In 1845, he gave the first mathematical development of 's idea that electric induction takes place through an intervening medium, or "dielectric", and not by some incomprehensible "action at a distance". He also devised the mathematical technique of electrical images, which became a powerful agent in solving problems of electrostatics, the science which deals with the forces between electrically charged bodies at rest. It was partly in response to his encouragement that Faraday undertook the research in September 1845 that led to the discovery of the , which established that light and magnetic (and thus electric) phenomena were related. He was elected a fellow of St. Peter's (as Peterhouse was often called at the time) in June 1845. On gaining the fellowship, he spent some time in the laboratory of the celebrated , at Paris; but in 1846 he was appointed to the chair of natural philosophy in the . At twenty-two he found himself wearing the gown of a professor in one of the oldest Universities in the country, and lecturing to the class of which he was a first year student a few years before.
ThermodynamicsBy 1847, Thomson had already gained a reputation as a precocious and maverick scientist when he attended the annual meeting in . At that meeting, he heard making yet another of his, so far, ineffective attempts to discredit the of heat and the theory of the built upon it by Sadi Carnot and Émile Clapeyron. Joule argued for the mutual convertibility of heat and and for their mechanical equivalence. Thomson was intrigued but sceptical. Though he felt that Joule's results demanded theoretical explanation, he retreated into an even deeper commitment to the Carnot–Clapeyron school. He predicted that the of ice must fall with , otherwise its expansion on freezing could be exploited in a '' ''. Experimental confirmation in his laboratory did much to bolster his beliefs. In 1848, he extended the Carnot–Clapeyron theory further through his dissatisfaction that the gas thermometer provided only an of temperature. He proposed an '' scale'' in which ''a unit of heat descending from a body A at the temperature ''T''° of this scale, to a body B at the temperature (''T''−1)°, would give out the same mechanical effect '' ', whatever be the number'' T''.'' Such a scale would be ''quite independent of the physical properties of any specific substance.'' By employing such a "waterfall", Thomson postulated that a point would be reached at which no further heat (caloric) could be transferred, the point of '' '' about which had speculated in 1702. "Reflections on the Motive Power of Heat", published by Carnot in French in 1824, the year of Lord Kelvin's birth, used −267 as an estimate of the absolute zero temperature. Thomson used data published by Regnault to his scale against established measurements. In his publication, Thomson wrote: —But a footnote signalled his first doubts about the caloric theory, referring to Joule's ''very remarkable discoveries''. Surprisingly, Thomson did not send Joule a copy of his paper, but when Joule eventually read it he wrote to Thomson on 6 October, claiming that his studies had demonstrated conversion of heat into work but that he was planning further experiments. Thomson replied on 27 October, revealing that he was planning his own experiments and hoping for a reconciliation of their two views. Thomson returned to critique Carnot's original publication and read his analysis to the in January 1849, still convinced that the theory was fundamentally sound. However, though Thomson conducted no new experiments, over the next two years he became increasingly dissatisfied with Carnot's theory and convinced of Joule's. In February 1851 he sat down to articulate his new thinking. He was uncertain of how to frame his theory and the paper went through several drafts before he settled on an attempt to reconcile Carnot and Joule. During his rewriting, he seems to have considered ideas that would subsequently give rise to the . In Carnot's theory, lost heat was ''absolutely lost'' but Thomson contended that it was "''lost to man'' irrecoverably; but not lost in the material world". Moreover, his beliefs led Thompson to the second law to the cosmos, originating the idea of universal heat death. Compensation would require ''a creative act or an act possessing similar power'', resulting in a ''rejuvenating universe'' (as Thompson had previously compared universal heat death to a clock running slower and slower, although he was unsure whether it would eventually reach and ''stop for ever''). Kelvin also formulated the heat death paradox (Kelvin’s paradox) in , which uses the second law of thermodynamics to disprove the possibility of an infinitely old universe; this paradox was later extended by . In final publication, Thomson retreated from a radical departure and declared "the whole theory of the motive power of heat is founded on ... two ... propositions, due respectively to Joule, and to Carnot and Clausius." Thomson went on to state a form of the second law: In the paper, Thomson supported the theory that heat was a form of motion but admitted that he had been influenced only by the thought of Sir and the experiments of Joule and , maintaining that experimental demonstration of the conversion of heat into work was still outstanding. As soon as Joule read the paper he wrote to Thomson with his comments and questions. Thus began a fruitful, though largely epistolary, collaboration between the two men, Joule conducting experiments, Thomson analysing the results and suggesting further experiments. The collaboration lasted from 1852 to 1856, its discoveries including the , sometimes called the Kelvin–Joule effect, and the published results did much to bring about general acceptance of Joule's work and the . Thomson published more than 650 scientific papers and applied for 70 patents (not all were issued). Regarding science, Thomson wrote the following:
Calculations on data rateThough now eminent in the academic field, Thomson was obscure to the general public. In September 1852, he married childhood sweetheart Margaret Crum, daughter of Walter Crum; but her health broke down on their honeymoon, and over the next seventeen years, Thomson was distracted by her suffering. On 16 October 1854, wrote to Thomson to try to re-interest him in work by asking his opinion on some experiments of on the proposed . Faraday had demonstrated how the construction of a cable would limit the rate at which messages could be sent – in modern terms, the bandwidth (computing), bandwidth. Thomson jumped at the problem and published his response that month. He expressed his results in terms of the data signalling rate, data rate that could be achieved and the economic consequences in terms of the potential revenue of the transatlantic undertaking. In a further 1855 analysis, Thomson stressed the impact that the design of the cable would have on its profit (accounting), profitability. Thomson contended that the signalling speed through a given cable was inversely proportional to the square (algebra), square of the length of the cable. Thomson's results were disputed at a meeting of the British Association in 1856 by Wildman Whitehouse, the electrician of the Atlantic Telegraph Company. Whitehouse had possibly misinterpreted the results of his own experiments but was doubtless feeling financial pressure as plans for the cable were already well under way. He believed that Thomson's calculations implied that the cable must be "abandoned as being practically and commercially impossible". Thomson attacked Whitehouse's contention in a letter to the popular ''Athenaeum (British magazine), Athenaeum'' magazine, pitching himself into the public eye. Thomson recommended a larger conductor (material), conductor with a larger cross section (geometry), cross section of Electrical insulation, insulation. He thought Whitehouse no fool, and suspected that he might have the practical skill to make the existing design work. Thomson's work had attracted the attention of the project's undertakers. In December 1856, he was elected to the board of directors of the Atlantic Telegraph Company.
Scientist to engineerThomson became scientific adviser to a team with Whitehouse as chief electrician and Sir Charles Tilston Bright as chief engineer but Whitehouse had his way with the specification, supported by Faraday and Samuel F. B. Morse. Thomson sailed on board the cable-laying ship in August 1857, with Whitehouse confined to land owing to illness, but the voyage ended after when the cable parted. Thomson contributed to the effort by publishing in the ''Engineer'' the whole theory of the stress (physics), stresses involved in the laying of a submarine Submarine communications cable, cable, and showed that when the line is running out of the ship, at a constant speed, in a uniform depth of water, it sinks in a slant or straight incline from the point where it enters the water to that where it touches the bottom. Thomson developed a complete system for operating a submarine telegraph that was capable of sending a character (computing), character every 3.5 seconds. He patented the key elements of his system, the mirror galvanometer and the siphon recorder, in 1858. Whitehouse still felt able to ignore Thomson's many suggestions and proposals. It was not until Thomson convinced the board that using purer copper for replacing the lost section of cable would improve data capacity, that he first made a difference to the execution of the project. The board insisted that Thomson join the 1858 cable-laying expedition, without any financial compensation, and take an active part in the project. In return, Thomson secured a trial for his mirror galvanometer, which the board had been unenthusiastic about, alongside Whitehouse's equipment. Thomson found the access he was given unsatisfactory and the ''Agamemnon'' had to return home following the disastrous storm of June 1858. In London, the board was about to abandon the project and mitigate their losses by selling the cable. Thomson, Cyrus West Field and Curtis M. Lampson argued for another attempt and prevailed, Thomson insisting that the technical problems were tractable. Though employed in an advisory capacity, Thomson had, during the voyages, developed a real engineer's instincts and skill at practical problem-solving under pressure, often taking the lead in dealing with emergencies and being unafraid to assist in manual work. A cable was completed on 5 August.
Disaster and triumphThomson's fears were realized when Whitehouse's apparatus proved insufficiently sensitive and had to be replaced by Thomson's mirror galvanometer. Whitehouse continued to maintain that it was his equipment that was providing the service and started to engage in desperate measures to remedy some of the problems. He succeeded in fatally damaging the cable by applying 2,000 Volt, V. When the cable failed completely Whitehouse was dismissed, though Thomson objected and was reprimanded by the board for his interference. Thomson subsequently regretted that he had acquiesced too readily to many of Whitehouse's proposals and had not challenged him with sufficient vigour. A joint committee of inquiry was established by the Board of Trade and the Atlantic Telegraph Company. Most of the blame for the cable's failure was found to rest with Whitehouse. The committee found that, though underwater cables were notorious in their lack of Reliability engineering, reliability, most of the problems arose from known and avoidable causes. Thomson was appointed one of a five-member committee to recommend a specification for a new cable. The committee reported in October 1863. In July 1865, Thomson sailed on the cable-laying expedition of the but the voyage was dogged by technical problems. The cable was lost after had been laid and the project was abandoned. A further attempt in 1866 laid a new cable in two weeks, and then recovered and completed the 1865 cable. The enterprise was now feted as a triumph by the public and Thomson enjoyed a large share of the adulation. Thomson, along with the other principals of the project, was knighted on 10 November 1866. To exploit his inventions for signalling on long submarine cables, Thomson now entered into a partnership with C. F. Varley and Fleeming Jenkin. In conjunction with the latter, he also devised an automatic curb sender, a kind of telegraph key for sending messages on a cable.
Later expeditionsThomson took part in the laying of the French Atlantic submarine communications cable of 1869, and with Jenkin was engineer of the Western and Brazilian and Platino-Brazilian cables, assisted by vacation student James Alfred Ewing. He was present at the laying of the Belém, Pará to Pernambuco section of the Brazilian coast cables in 1873. Thomson's wife died on 17 June 1870, and he resolved to make changes in his life. Already addicted to seafaring, in September he purchased a 126-ton schooner, the ''Lalla Rookh (ship), Lalla Rookh'' and used it as a base for entertaining friends and scientific colleagues. His maritime interests continued in 1871 when he was appointed to the board of enquiry into the sinking of . In June 1873, Thomson and Jenkin were on board the ''Hooper'', bound for Lisbon with of cable when the cable developed a fault. An unscheduled 16-day stop-over in Madeira followed and Thomson became good friends with Charles R. Blandy and his three daughters. On 2 May 1874 he set sail for Madeira on the ''Lalla Rookh''. As he approached the harbour, he signaled to the Blandy residence "Will you marry me?" and Fanny (Blandy's daughter Frances Anna Blandy) signaled back "Yes". Thomson married Fanny, 13 years his junior, on 24 June 1874. file:Hubert von Herkomer03.jpg, upLord Kelvin by Hubert von Herkomer
Thomson and Tait: ''Treatise on Natural Philosophy''Over the period 1855 to 1867, Thomson collaborated with Peter Guthrie Tait on a text book that founded the study of mechanics first on the mathematics of kinematics, the description of motion without regard to force. The text developed dynamics (mechanics), dynamics in various areas but with constant attention to energy as a unifying principle. A second edition appeared in 1879, expanded to two separately bound parts. The textbook set a standard for early education in mathematical physics.
Atmospheric electricityKelvin made significant contributions to atmospheric electricity for the relatively short time for which he worked on the subject, around 1859. He developed several instruments for measuring the atmospheric electric field, using some of the electrometers he had initially developed for telegraph work, which he tested at Glasgow and whilst on holiday on Arran. His measurements on Arran were sufficiently rigorous and well-calibrated that they could be used to deduce air pollution from the Glasgow area, through its effects on the atmospheric electric field. Kelvin's water dropper electrometer was used for measuring the atmospheric electric field at King's Observatory, Kew Observatory and Eskdalemuir Observatory for many years, and one was still in use operationally a
Kelvin's vortex theory of the atomBetween 1870 and 1890 the vortex atom theory, which purported that an atom was a vortex in the luminiferous aether, aether, was popular among British physicists and mathematicians. Thomson pioneered the theory, which was distinct from the seventeenth century vortex theory of Descartes in that Thomson was thinking in terms of a unitary continuum theory, whereas Descartes was thinking in terms of three different types of matter, each relating respectively to emission, transmission, and reflection of light. About 60 scientific papers were written by approximately 25 scientists. Following the lead of Thomson and Tait, the branch of topology called knot theory was developed. Kelvin's initiative in this complex study that continues to inspire new mathematics has led to persistence of the topic in history of science.
MarineThomson was an enthusiastic yachtsman, his interest in all things relating to the sea perhaps arising from, or fostered by, his experiences on the ''Agamemnon'' and the ''SS Great Eastern, Great Eastern''. Thomson introduced a method of deep-sea depth sounding, in which a steel piano wire replaces the ordinary hand line. The wire glides so easily to the bottom that "flying soundings" can be taken while the ship is at full speed. A pressure gauge to register the depth of the sinker was added by Thomson. About the same time he revived the Sumner method of finding a ship's position, and calculated a set of tables for its ready application. During the 1880s, Thomson worked to perfect the adjustable compass to correct errors arising from magnetic deviation owing to the increased use of iron in naval architecture. Thomson's design was a great improvement on the older instruments, being steadier and less hampered by friction. The deviation due to the ship's magnetism was corrected by movable iron masses at the binnacle. Thomson's innovations involved much detailed work to develop principles identified by George Biddell Airy and others, but contributed little in terms of novel physical thinking. Thomson's energetic lobbying and networking proved effective in gaining acceptance of his instrument by The Admiralty. Charles Babbage had been among the first to suggest that a lighthouse might be made to signal a distinctive number by occultations of its light, but Thomson pointed out the merits of the Morse code for the purpose, and urged that the signals should consist of short and long flashes of the light to represent the dots and dashes.
Electrical standardsThomson did more than any other electrician up to his time in introducing accurate methods and apparatus for measuring electricity. As early as 1845 he pointed out that the experimental results of William Snow Harris were in accordance with the laws of Charles-Augustin de Coulomb, Coulomb. In the ''Memoirs of the Roman Academy of Sciences'' for 1857 he published a description of his new divided ring electrometer, based on the old electroscope of Johann Gottlieb Friedrich von Bohnenberger and he introduced a chain or series of effective instruments, including the quadrant electrometer, which cover the entire field of electrostatic measurement. He invented the current balance, also known as the ''Kelvin balance'' or ''Ampere balance'' (''SiC''), for the accuracy and precision, precise specification of the ampere, the standardisation, standard Units of measurement, unit of electric current. From around 1880 he was aided by the electrical engineer Magnus Maclean FRSE in his electrical experiments. In 1893, Thomson headed an international commission to decide on the design of the Niagara Falls power station. Despite his belief in the superiority of direct current electric power transmission, he endorsed Westinghouse's alternating current system which had been demonstrated at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago World's Fair of that year. Even after Niagara Falls Thomson still held to his belief that direct current was the superior system. Acknowledging his contribution to electrical standardisation, the International Electrotechnical Commission elected Thomson as its first President at its preliminary meeting, held in London on 26–27 June 1906. "On the proposal of the President [Mr Alexander Siemens, Great Britain], secounded [sic] by Mr Mailloux [US Institute of Electrical Engineers] the Right Honorable Lord Kelvin, G.C.V.O., Order of Merit, O.M., was unanimously elected first President of the Commission", minutes of the Preliminary Meeting Report read.
Age of the Earth: geologyKelvin estimated the age of the Earth. Given his youthful work on the figure of the Earth and his interest in heat conduction, it is no surprise that he chose to investigate the Earth's cooling and to make historical inferences of the Earth's age from his calculations. Thomson was a creationism, creationist in a broad sense, but he was not a 'flood geology, flood geologist' (a view that had Flood geology#Criticisms and retractions: the downfall of Diluvialism, lost mainstream scientific support by the 1840s). He contended that the operated from the birth of the universe and envisaged a dynamic process that saw the organisation and evolution of the Solar System and other structures, followed by a gradual "heat death". He developed the view that the Earth had once been too hot to support life and contrasted this view with that of uniformitarianism (science), uniformitarianism, that conditions had remained constant since the indefinite past. He contended that "This earth, certainly a moderate number of millions of years ago, was a red-hot globe … ." After the publication of Charles Darwin's ''On the Origin of Species'' in 1859, Thomson saw evidence of the relatively short habitable age of the Earth as tending to contradict Darwin's gradualist explanation of slow natural selection bringing about biological diversity. Thomson's own views favoured a version of theistic evolution sped up by divine guidance. His calculations showed that the Sun could not have possibly existed long enough to allow the slow incremental development by evolution – unless some energy source beyond what he or any other Victorian era person knew of was found. He was soon drawn into public disagreement with geologists,Kelvin did pay off gentleman's bet with Strutt on the importance of radioactivity in the Earth. The Kelvin period does exist in the evolution of stars. They shine from gravitational energy for a while (correctly calculated by Kelvin) before fusion and the main sequence begins. Fusion was not understood until well after Kelvin's time. and with Darwin's supporters John Tyndall and T. H. Huxley. In his response to Huxley's address to the Geological Society of London (1868) he presented his address "Of Geological Dynamics" (1869) which, among his other writings, challenged the geologists' acceptance that the earth must be of indefinite age. Thomson's initial 1864 estimate of the Earth's age was from 20 to 400 million years old. These wide limits were due to his uncertainty about the melting temperature of rock, to which he equated the Earth's interior temperature, as well as the uncertainty in thermal conductivities and specific heats of rocks. Over the years he refined his arguments and reduced the upper bound by a factor of ten, and in 1897 Thomson, now Lord Kelvin, ultimately settled on an estimate that the Earth was 20–40 million years old. In a letter published in Scientific American Supplement 1895 Kelvin criticized geologists' estimates of the age of rocks and the age of the earth, including the views published by Charles Darwin, as "vaguely vast age". His exploration of this estimate can be found in his 1897 address to the Victoria Institute, given at the request of the Institute's president Sir George Stokes, 1st Baronet, George Stokes, as recorded in that Institute's journal ''Science and Christian Belief, Transactions''. Although his former assistant John Perry (engineer), John Perry published a paper in 1895 challenging Kelvin's assumption of low thermal conductivity inside the Earth, and thus showing a much greater age, this had little immediate impact. The discovery in 1903 that radioactive decay releases heat led to Kelvin's estimate being challenged, and Ernest Rutherford famously made the argument in a 1904 lecture attended by Kelvin that this provided the unknown energy source Kelvin had suggested, but the estimate was not overturned until the development in 1907 of radiometric dating of rocks. It was widely believed that the discovery of radioactivity had invalidated Thomson's estimate of the age of the Earth. Thomson himself never publicly acknowledged this because he thought he had a much stronger argument restricting the age of the Sun to no more than 20 million years. Without sunlight, there could be no explanation for the sediment record on the Earth's surface. At the time, the only known source for the solar power output was gravitational collapse. It was only when thermonuclear fusion was recognised in the 1930s that Thomson's age paradox was truly resolved.
Later life and deathIn the winter of 1860–1861 Kelvin slipped on the ice while curling near his home at Netherhall and fractured his leg, causing him to miss the 1861 Manchester meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and to limp thereafter. He remained something of a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic until his death. Thomson remained a devout believer in Christianity throughout his life; attendance at chapel was part of his daily routine. He saw his Christian faith as supporting and informing his scientific work, as is evident from his address to the annual meeting of the Christian Evidence Society, 23 May 1889. In the 1902 Coronation Honours list published on 26 June 1902 (the original day of the coronation of Edward VII and Alexandra), Kelvin was appointed a Privy Council of the United Kingdom, Privy Counsellor and one of the first members of the new Order of Merit (OM). He received the order from the King on 8 August 1902, and was sworn a member of the council at Buckingham Palace on 11 August 1902. In his later years he often travelled to his town house at 15 Eaton Place, off Eaton Square in London's Belgravia. In November 1907 he caught a chill and his condition deteriorated until he died at his Scottish country seat, Netherhall, in Largs on 17 December. At the request of Westminster Abbey, the undertakers Wylie & Lochhead prepared an oak coffin, lined with lead. In the dark of the winter evening the cortege set off from Netherhall for Largs railway station, a distance of about a mile. Large crowds witnessed the passing of the cortege, and shopkeepers closed their premises and dimmed their lights. The coffin was placed in a special Midland Railway, Midland and Glasgow and South Western Railway van. The train set off at 8.30 pm for Kilmarnock, where the van was attached to the overnight express to St Pancras railway station in London.The Scotsman, 23 December 1907 Kelvin's funeral was to be held on 23 December 1907. The coffin was taken from St Pancras by hearse to Westminster Abbey, where it rested overnight in St Faith's Chapel. The following day the Abbey was crowded for the funeral, including representatives from the and the University of Cambridge, along with representatives from French Third Republic, France, Kingdom of Italy, Italy, German Empire, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Austria, Russian Empire, Russia, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Monaco. Kelvin's grave is in the nave, near the choir screen, and close to the graves of , John Herschel, and Charles Darwin. The pall-bearers included Darwin's son, Sir George Darwin. Back in Scotland the University of Glasgow held a memorial service for Kelvin in the Bute Hall. Kelvin had been a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, attached to St Columba's Episcopal Church in Largs, and when in Glasgow to St Mary's Episcopal Church (now, St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow). At the same time as the funeral in Westminster Abbey, a service was held in St Columba's Episcopal Church, Largs, attended by a large congregation including burgh dignitaries. William Thomson is also memorialised on the Thomson family grave in Glasgow Necropolis. The family grave has a second modern memorial to William alongside, erected by the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow; a society of which he was president in the periods 1856–1858 and 1874–1877.
Aftermath and legacy
Limits of classical physicsIn 1884, Thomson led a master class on "Molecular Dynamics and the Wave Theory of Light" at Johns Hopkins University. Kelvin referred to the acoustic wave equation describing sound as waves of pressure in air and attempted to describe also an electromagnetic wave equation, presuming a luminiferous aether susceptible to vibration. The study group included Michelson and Morley who subsequently performed the Michelson–Morley experiment that undercut the aether theory. Thomson did not provide a text but A. S. Hathaway took notes and duplicated them with a Mimeograph#Papyrograph, Papyrograph. As the subject matter was under active development, Thomson amended that text and in 1904 it was typeset and published. Thomson's attempts to provide mechanical models ultimately failed in the electromagnetic regime. Starting from his lecture in 1884, Kelvin was also the first scientist to formulate the hypothetical concept of dark matter; he then attempted to define and locate some “dark bodies” in the Milky Way. On 27 April 1900 he gave a widely reported lecture titled ''Nineteenth-Century Clouds over the Dynamical Theory of Heat and Light'' to the Royal Institution. The two "dark clouds" he was alluding to were confusion surrounding how matter moves through the aether (including the puzzling results of the Michelson–Morley experiment) and indications that the equipartition theorem, Law of Equipartition in statistical mechanics might break down. Two major physical theories were developed during the twentieth century starting from these issues: for the former, the theory of relativity; for the second, quantum mechanics. Albert Einstein, in 1905, published the so-called "Annus Mirabilis papers", one of which explained the photoelectric effect, based on Max Planck's discovery of energy quanta which was the foundation of quantum mechanics, another of which described special relativity, and the last of which explained Brownian motion in terms of statistical mechanics, providing a strong argument for the existence of atoms.
Pronouncements later proven to be falseLike many scientists, Thomson made some mistakes in predicting the future of technology. His biographer Silvanus P. Thompson writes that "When Wilhelm Röntgen, Röntgen's discovery of the X-rays was announced at the end of 1895, Lord Kelvin was entirely skeptical, and regarded the announcement as a hoax. The papers had been full of the wonders of Röntgen's rays, about which Lord Kelvin was intensely skeptical until Röntgen himself sent him a copy of his Memoir"; on 17 January 1896, having read the paper and seen the photographs, he wrote Röntgen a letter saying that "I need not tell you that when I read the paper I was very much astonished and delighted. I can say no more now than to congratulate you warmly on the great discovery you have made" He would have his own hand X-rayed in May 1896. (See also N rays.) His forecast for practical aviation (i.e., heavier-than-air aircraft) was negative. In 1896 he refused an invitation to join the Aeronautical Society, writing that "I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning or of expectation of good results from any of the trials we hear of." And in a 1902 newspaper interview he predicted that "No balloon and no aeroplane will ever be practically successful." The statement "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement" has been widely misattributed to Kelvin since the 1980s, either without citation or stating that it was made in an address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1900). There is no evidence that Kelvin said this,''The End of Science'' (1996), by John Horgan (journalist), John Horgan
EponymsA variety of physical phenomena and concepts with which Thomson is associated are named ''Kelvin'', including: *Kelvin bridge (also known as Thomson bridge) *Kelvin functions *Kelvin–Helmholtz instability *Kelvin–Helmholtz luminosity *Kelvin–Helmholtz mechanism *Kelvin material *Joule-Kelvin effect *Four-terminal sensing, Kelvin sensing *Kelvin transform in potential theory *Kelvin water dropper *Kelvin wave *Heat death paradox, Kelvin’s heat death paradox *Kelvin's circulation theorem *Kelvin–Stokes theorem *Kelvin–Varley divider *The SI unit of temperature,
Honours*Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1847. **Keith Medal, 1864. **Gunning Victoria Jubilee Prize, 1887. **President, 1873–1878, 1886–1890, 1895–1907. *Foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 1851. *Fellow of the Royal Society, 1851. **Royal Medal, 1856. ** , 1883. **President, 1890–1895. *Hon. Member of the Royal College of Preceptors (College of Teachers), 1858. *Hon. Member of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, 1859. *Knight Bachelor, Knighted 1866. *Commander of the Imperial Order of the Rose (Brazil), 1873. *Commander of the Legion of Honour (France), 1881. **Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, 1889. *Knight of the Prussian Order Pour le Mérite, 1884. *Commander of the Order of Leopold (Belgium), 1890. *Baron Kelvin, of in the Traditional counties of Scotland, County of Ayrshire, Ayr, 1892. The title derives from the , which runs by the grounds of the . His title died with him, as he was survived by neither heirs nor close relations. *Royal Victorian Order, Knight Grand Cross of the Victorian Order, 1896. * Honorary degree ''Legum doctor'' (LL.D.), Yale University, 5 May 1902. *One of the first members of the Order of Merit (Commonwealth), Order of Merit, 1902. *Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Privy Counsellor, 11 August 1902. *Honorary degree ''Doctor mathematicae'' from the Royal Frederick University on 6 September 1902, when they celebrated the centennial of the birth of Niels Henrik Abel. *First international recipient of John Fritz Medal, 1905. *Order of the First Class of the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Sacred Treasure of Japan, 1901. *He is buried in Westminster Abbey, London next to . *Lord Kelvin was commemorated on the £20 note issued by the Clydesdale Bank in 1971; in the current issue of banknotes, his image appears on the bank's £100 note. He is shown holding his adjustable compass and in the background is a map of the transatlantic cable. *The town of Kelvin, Arizona, is named in his honour, as he was reputedly a large investor in the mining operations there. *In 2011 he was one of seven inaugural inductees to the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame. *World Refrigeration Day, is 26 June. It was chosen to celebrate his birth date and has been held annually, since 2019.
See also*Taylor column *List of people on banknotes#Scotland, People on Scottish banknotes *List of things named after Lord Kelvin
Kelvin's works* 2nd edition, 1883. (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009. ) **
Biography, history of ideas and criticism* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * In two volume
External links* * * *