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William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, (26 June 182417 December 1907) was a British
mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained ( ...

mathematician
, mathematical physicist and
engineer Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are Professional, professionals who Invention, invent, design, analyze, build and test Machine, machines, complex systems, architecture, structures, gadgets and materials to fulfill functional objecti ...

engineer
born in
Belfast Belfast ( ; , ) is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast. It is the 12th-largest city in the United Kingdom and the second-largest on the island of Ireland. It had a popul ...

Belfast
. Professor of Natural Philosophy at the
University of Glasgow , image_name = University_of_Glasgow_Coat_of_Arms.jpg , image_size = 150px , latin_name = Universitas Glasguensis , motto = la, Via, Veritas, Vita ''Via et veritas et vita'' (, ) is a Latin language, Latin phrase meaning "the way and the t ...

University of Glasgow
for 53 years, he did important work in the
mathematical analysis Analysis is the branch of mathematics dealing with Limit (mathematics), limits and related theories, such as Derivative, differentiation, Integral, integration, Measure (mathematics), measure, sequences, Series (mathematics), series, and analytic ...
of electricity and formulation of the first and second
laws of thermodynamics The laws of thermodynamics define a group of physical quantities, such as temperature Temperature is a physical quantity that expresses hot and cold. It is the manifestation of thermal energy, present in all matter, which is the source of t ...
, and did much to unify the emerging discipline of
physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other words, to the regular succession of eve ...

physics
in its modern form. He received the
Royal Society The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national academy of sciences. Founded on 28 November 1660, it was granted a royal charter by Charles II of ...
's
Copley Medal The Copley Medal is an award given by the Royal Society, for "outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science". It alternates between the physical sciences or mathematics and the biological sciences. Given every year, the medal is t ...
in 1883, was its
President President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, company, community, club, trade union, university or other group. The relationship between a president and a Chief Executive Officer, chi ...
1890–1895, and in 1892 was the first British scientist to be elevated to the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
. Absolute temperatures are stated in units of
kelvin The kelvin is the base unit of temperature Temperature is a physical quantity that expresses hot and cold. It is the manifestation of thermal energy, present in all matter, which is the source of the occurrence of heat, a flow of energy, ...

kelvin
in his honour. While the existence of a lower limit to temperature (
absolute zero Absolute zero is the lowest limit of the thermodynamic temperature Thermodynamic temperature is the measure of ''absolute temperature'' and is one of the principal parameters of thermodynamics. A thermodynamic temperature reading of zero deno ...
) was known prior to his work, Kelvin is known for determining its correct value as approximately −273.15 degrees
Celsius The degree Celsius is a unit of temperature on the Celsius scale, a temperature scale Scale of temperature is a methodology of calibrating the physical quantity temperature in metrology. Empirical scales measure temperature in relation to conv ...

Celsius
or −459.67 degrees
Fahrenheit The Fahrenheit scale ( or ) is a Scale of temperature, temperature scale based on one proposed in 1724 by the physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686–1736). It uses the degree Fahrenheit (symbol: °F) as the unit. Several accounts of how he ...

Fahrenheit
. The
Joule–Thomson effect In thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Work (thermodynamics), work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, entropy, and the physical properties of matter and radiation. The behavior of these quant ...
is also named in his honour. He worked closely with mathematics professor in his work. He also had a career as an
electric telegraph An electrical telegraph was a point-to-point text messaging system, used from the 1840s until the mid 20th century when it was slowly replaced by other telecommunication systems. At the sending station switches connected a source of current to ...
engineer and inventor, which propelled him into the public eye and ensured his wealth, fame and honour. For his work on the transatlantic telegraph project he was
knighted A knight is a person granted an honorary title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification. In some ...
in 1866 by
Queen Victoria Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland There have been 12 British monarchs since the political union of the Kingdom of England The Kingdom of En ...

Queen Victoria
, becoming Sir William Thomson. He had extensive maritime interests and was most noted for his work on the
mariner's compass A compass is a magnetometer A magnetometer is a device that measures magnetic field A magnetic field is a vector field that describes the magnetic influence on moving electric charges, electric currents, and magnetic materials. A moving ...
, which previously had limited reliability. He was
ennobled Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobility has often been an Estates of the realm, estate of the realm that p ...
in 1892 in recognition of his achievements in thermodynamics, and of his opposition to
Irish Home Rule The Irish Home Rule movement was a movement that campaigned for self-government (or "home rule") for Ireland within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state tha ...
, becoming Baron Kelvin, of
Largs Largs ( gd, An Leargaidh Ghallda) is a town on the Firth of Clyde in North Ayrshire, Scotland, about from Glasgow. The original name means "the slopes" (''An Leargaidh'') in Scottish Gaelic. A popular seaside resort with a pier, the town mark ...
in the County of Ayr. The title refers to the
River Kelvin The River Kelvin (Scottish Gaelic: ''Abhainn Cheilbhinn'') is a tributary of the River Clyde in northern and northeastern Glasgow, Scotland. It rises on the moor south east of the village of Banton, Scotland, Banton, east of Kilsyth. At almo ...
, which flows near his laboratory at the University of Glasgow's
Gilmorehill Hillhead ( sco, Hullheid, gd, Ceann a' Chnuic)
is an a ...
home at
Hillhead Hillhead ( sco, Hullheid, gd, Ceann a' Chnuic)
is an a ...
. Despite offers of elevated posts from several world-renowned universities, Kelvin refused to leave Glasgow, remaining until his eventual retirement from that post in 1899. Active in industrial research and development, he was recruited around 1899 by
George Eastman George may refer to: People * George (given name) George (in English or in Romanian) is a masculine given name derived from the Greek language, Greek Georgios, Geōrgios (; ). The name gained popularity due to its association with the Christia ...

George Eastman
to serve as vice-chairman of the board of the British company Kodak Limited, affiliated with
Eastman Kodak The Eastman Kodak Company (referred to simply as Kodak ) is an American public company A public company, publicly traded company, publicly held company, publicly listed company, or public limited company is a company whose ownership is or ...
. In 1904 he became
Chancellor of the University of Glasgow The Chancellor is the titular head of the University of Glasgow , image_name = University_of_Glasgow_Coat_of_Arms.jpg , image_size = 150px , latin_name = Universitas Glasguensis , motto = la, Via, Veritas, Vita ''Via et veritas et vita' ...
. His home was the red sandstone mansion Netherhall, in Largs, which he built in the 1870s and where he died. The
Hunterian Museum The University of Glasgow's museum dedicated to William Hunter is the oldest museum in Scotland. It covers the Hunterian Museum, the Hunterian Art Gallery, the Mackintosh House, the Zoology Museum and the Anatomy Museum, all located in various bu ...

Hunterian Museum
at the University of Glasgow has a permanent exhibition on the work of Kelvin including many of his original papers, instruments, and other artefacts, such as his smoking pipe.


Early life and work


Family

William Thomson's father, James Thomson, was a teacher of mathematics and engineering at the
Royal Belfast Academical Institution The Royal Belfast Academical Institution is an Independent grammar school in Belfast Belfast ( ; , ) is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast. It is the 12th-largest ci ...
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
James James is a common English language surname and given name: * James (name), the typically masculine first name James * James (surname), various people with the last name James James or James City may also refer to: People * King James (disambiguati ...
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
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the and by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inhabitants, as of 31 December 2019 makes it the , according to population within city l ...

Germany
and the
Netherlands ) , national_anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = EU-Netherlands.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = BES islands location map.svg , map_caption2 = , image_map3 ...

Netherlands
. Language study was given a high priority. His sister, Anna Thomson, was the mother of
James Thomson Bottomley James Thomson Bottomley (10 January 1845 – 18 May 1926) was an Irish-born British physicist A physicist is a scientist A scientist is a person who conducts Scientific method, scientific research to advance knowledge in an Branches of ...
FRSE Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's national academy of science and Literature, letters, judged to be "eminently distinguished in their subject". ...
(1845–1926).


Youth

Thomson had heart problems and nearly died when he was 9 years old. He attended the
Royal Belfast Academical Institution The Royal Belfast Academical Institution is an Independent grammar school in Belfast Belfast ( ; , ) is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast. It is the 12th-largest ci ...
, 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
Lucian of Samosata Lucian of Samosata, '; la, Lucianus Samosatensis (Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughl ...

Lucian of Samosata
's ''Dialogues of the Gods'' from
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
to English. In the academic year 1839/1840, Thomson won the class prize in
astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses mathematics, phys ...
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
coping Coping is conscious or unconscious strategies used to reduce unpleasant emotions. Coping strategies can be cognitions or behaviours and can be individual or social. Theories of coping Hundreds of coping strategies have been identified. Classifi ...
strategy during times of personal stress. On the title page of this essay Thomson wrote the following lines from
Alexander Pope Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744) is seen as one of the greatest English poets and the foremost poet of the early 18th century. He is best known for satirical and discursive poetry, including ''The Rape of the Lock ''The Rape of ...

Alexander Pope
'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
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics a ...

Isaac Newton
. Unsurprisingly, Fourier's work had been attacked by domestic mathematicians,
Philip Kelland Rev Prof Philip Kelland PRSE FRS (17 October 1808 – 8 May 1879) was an English mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of s ...

Philip Kelland
authoring a critical book. The book motivated Thomson to write his first published
scientific paper : ''For a broader class of literature, see Academic publishing Academic publishing is the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in academic journal articles, books or thes ...
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
heat conduction Thermal conduction is the transfer of internal energy The internal energy of a thermodynamic system A thermodynamic system is a body of matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any substance that has mass and takes u ...

heat conduction
and
electrostatics Electrostatics is a branch of physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related enti ...
, an
analogy Analogy (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximate ...

analogy
that
James Clerk Maxwell James Clerk Maxwell (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879) was a Scottish mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as num ...

James Clerk Maxwell
was ultimately to describe as one of the most valuable ''science-forming ideas.''


Cambridge

William'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
Peterhouse, Cambridge Peterhouse is the oldest constituent college A collegiate university is a university A university ( la, universitas, 'a whole') is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) educat ...
. While at Cambridge, Thomson was active in sports, athletics and
sculling Sculling is the use of oars to propel a boat by moving the oars through the water on both sides of the craft, or moving a single oar over the stern The stern is the back or aft-most part of a ship or boat, technically defined as the area bu ...

sculling
, 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
mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and their changes (cal ...
, physics, and in particular, of electricity, had captivated his imagination. In 1845 Thomson graduated as
Second Wrangler A student is named as Senior Wrangler in 1842, an accolade "synonymous with academic supremacy". At the University of Cambridge in England, a "Wrangler" is a student who gains first-class honours in the final year of Mathematical Tripos, the Un ...
. He also won the First
Smith's Prize The Smith's Prize was the name of each of two prizes awarded annually to two research students in mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and s ...
, which, unlike the
tripos TRIPOS (''TRIvial Portable Operating System'') is a computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic ...
, is a test of original research.
Robert Leslie EllisRobert Leslie Ellis (25 August 1817 – 12 May 1859) was an England, English polymath, remembered principally as a mathematician and editor of the works of Francis Bacon. Biography Ellis was the youngest of six children of Francis Ellis (1772–184 ...
, 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
Michael Faraday Michael Faraday (; 22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was an English scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge ...

Michael Faraday
'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
Faraday effect The Faraday effect or Faraday rotation, sometimes referred to as the magneto-optic Faraday effect (MOFE), is a physical Physical may refer to: *Physical examination, a regular overall check-up with a doctor *Physical (album), ''Physical'' (album), ...

Faraday effect
, 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
Henri Victor Regnault Henri Victor Regnault (21 July 1810 – 19 January 1878) was a French chemist and physicist best known for his careful measurements of the thermal properties of gases. He was an early thermodynamicist and was mentor to William Thomson i ...

Henri Victor Regnault
, at Paris; but in 1846 he was appointed to the chair of natural philosophy in the
University of Glasgow , image_name = University_of_Glasgow_Coat_of_Arms.jpg , image_size = 150px , latin_name = Universitas Glasguensis , motto = la, Via, Veritas, Vita ''Via et veritas et vita'' (, ) is a Latin language, Latin phrase meaning "the way and the t ...

University of Glasgow
. 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.


Thermodynamics

By 1847, Thomson had already gained a reputation as a precocious and maverick scientist when he attended the
British Association for the Advancement of Science The British Science Association (BSA) is a charity Charity may refer to: Giving * Charitable organization or charity, a non-profit organization whose primary objectives are philanthropy and social well-being * Charity (practice), the practice ...
annual meeting in
Oxford Oxford () is a city in England. It is the county town In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' u ...

Oxford
. At that meeting, he heard
James Prescott Joule James Prescott Joule (; 24 December 1818 11 October 1889) was an English physicist A physicist is a scientist A scientist is a person who conducts Scientific method, scientific research to advance knowledge in an Branches of science, ...

James Prescott Joule
making yet another of his, so far, ineffective attempts to discredit the
caloric theory The caloric theory is an obsolete scientific theory In Science#History, science, a theory is superseded when a scientific consensus once widely accepted it, but current science considers it inadequate, incomplete, or debunked (i.e., wrong). Such ...
of heat and the theory of the
heat engine In thermodynamics and engineering, a heat engine is a system that converts heat to mechanical energy, which can then be used to do work (physics), mechanical work. It does this by bringing a working substance from a higher state temperature to ...

heat engine
built upon it by Sadi Carnot and Émile Clapeyron. Joule argued for the mutual convertibility of heat and
mechanical work In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. ...
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
melting point The melting point (or, rarely, liquefaction point) of a substance is the temperature Temperature ( ) is a physical quantity that expresses hot and cold. It is the manifestation of thermal energy Thermal radiation in visible light can b ...

melting point
of ice must fall with
pressure Pressure (symbol: ''p'' or ''P'') is the force In physics, a force is an influence that can change the motion (physics), motion of an Physical object, object. A force can cause an object with mass to change its velocity (e.g. moving fr ...

pressure
, otherwise its expansion on freezing could be exploited in a ''
perpetuum mobile In music, ''perpetuum mobile'' (English pronunciation /pərˌpɛtjʊəm ˈmoʊbɪleɪ/, /ˈmoʊbɪli/; literally, "perpetual motion"), ''moto perpetuo'' ( Italian), ''mouvement perpétuel'' ( French), ''movimento perpétuo'' ( Portuguese) ''movimie ...
''. 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
operational definition An operational definition specifies concrete, replicable procedures designed to represent a construct. In the words of American psychologist S.S. Stevens (1935), "An operation is the performance which we execute in order to make known a concept." ...
of temperature. He proposed an ''
absolute temperature Thermodynamic temperature is a quantity defined in thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Work (thermodynamics), work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, entropy, and the physical properties of ...
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 ''
ork Ork or ORK may refer to: * , a mountain demon of Tyrol folklore * , a 1991 game for the Amiga and Atari ST systems * , a fictional species in the ''Warhammer 40,000'' universe * ', a 2001 role-playing game * in Ireland * Islands * Ork, a characte ...

ork
', 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 ''
absolute zero Absolute zero is the lowest limit of the thermodynamic temperature Thermodynamic temperature is the measure of ''absolute temperature'' and is one of the principal parameters of thermodynamics. A thermodynamic temperature reading of zero deno ...
'' about which
Guillaume Amontons Guillaume Amontons (31 August 1663 – 11 October 1705) was a French scientific instrument inventor and physicist A physicist is a scientist A scientist is a person who conducts Scientific method, scientific research to advance knowledge ...

Guillaume Amontons
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
calibrate In measurement technology and metrology 290px, alt=Man in white standing in front of a large machine, A scientist stands in front of the Microarcsecond Metrology (MAM) testbed. Metrology is the scientific study of measurement ' Measurement ...

calibrate
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
Royal Society of Edinburgh The Royal Society of Edinburgh is Scotland's national academy#REDIRECT National academy A national academy is an organizational body, usually operating with state financial support and approval, that co-ordinates scholarly research Re ...
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
second law of thermodynamics The second law of thermodynamics establishes the concept of entropy Entropy is a scientific concept, as well as a measurable physical property that is most commonly associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty. The term an ...
. 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
theological Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity ...
beliefs led Thompson to
extrapolate In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...

extrapolate
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
thermodynamic equilibrium Thermodynamic equilibrium is an axiomatic An axiom, postulate or assumption is a statement that is taken to be true True most commonly refers to truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online ...
and ''stop for ever''). Kelvin also formulated the heat death paradox (Kelvin’s paradox) in
1862 Events January–March * January 1 January 1 or 1 January is the first day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar The Gregorian calendar is the used in most of the world. It was introduced in October 1582 by as a modif ...
, 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
Humphry Davy Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet (17 December 177829 May 1829) was a Cornish people, Cornish chemist and inventor who invented the Davy lamp and a very early form of arc lamp. He is also remembered for isolating, by using electricity, a series of ...

Humphry Davy
and the experiments of Joule and
Julius Robert von Mayer Julius Robert von Mayer (25 November 1814 – 20 March 1878) was a German physician A physician (American English), medical practitioner (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English), medical doctor, or simply doctor, is a ...

Julius Robert von Mayer
, 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
Joule–Thomson effect In thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Work (thermodynamics), work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, entropy, and the physical properties of matter and radiation. The behavior of these quant ...
, sometimes called the Kelvin–Joule effect, and the published results did much to bring about general acceptance of Joule's work and the
kinetic theory of the ideal gas An ideal gas is a theoretical gas composed of many randomly moving point particles that are not subject to interparticle interactions. The ideal gas concept is useful because it obeys the ideal gas law, a simplified equation o ...

kinetic theory
. Thomson published more than 650 scientific papers and applied for 70 patents (not all were issued). Regarding science, Thomson wrote the following:


Transatlantic cable


Calculations on data rate

Though 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,
George Gabriel Stokes Sir George Gabriel Stokes, 1st Baronet, (; 13 August 1819 – 1 February 1903) was an Anglo-Irish physicist A physicist is a scientist A scientist is a person who conducts Scientific method, scientific research to advance knowledge in a ...

George Gabriel Stokes
wrote to Thomson to try to re-interest him in work by asking his opinion on some experiments of
Michael Faraday Michael Faraday (; 22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was an English scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge ...

Michael Faraday
on the proposed
transatlantic telegraph cable Transatlantic telegraph cables were Submarine communications cable, undersea cables running under the Atlantic Ocean used for telegraph communications. Telegraphy is now an obsolete form of communication and the cables have long since been decomm ...
. 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 engineer

Thomson 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 triumph

Thomson'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 expeditions

Thomson 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


Other contributions


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 electricity

Kelvin 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
Kakioka Observatory
in Japan until early 2021. Kelvin may have unwittingly observed atmospheric electrical effects caused by the Carrington Event, Carrington event (a significant solar storm) in early September 1859.


Kelvin's vortex theory of the atom

Between 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.


Marine

Thomson 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 standards

Thomson 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: geology

Kelvin 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
laws of thermodynamics The laws of thermodynamics define a group of physical quantities, such as temperature Temperature is a physical quantity that expresses hot and cold. It is the manifestation of thermal energy, present in all matter, which is the source of t ...
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 death

In 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
University of Glasgow , image_name = University_of_Glasgow_Coat_of_Arms.jpg , image_size = 150px , latin_name = Universitas Glasguensis , motto = la, Via, Veritas, Vita ''Via et veritas et vita'' (, ) is a Latin language, Latin phrase meaning "the way and the t ...

University of Glasgow
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
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics a ...

Isaac Newton
, 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 physics

In 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 false

Like 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
p. 19
/ref> and the quote is instead a paraphrase of Albert A. Michelson, who in 1894 stated: "… it seems probable that most of the grand underlying principles have been firmly established … An eminent physicist remarked that the future truths of physical science are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals." Similar statements were given earlier by others, such as Philipp von Jolly. The attribution to Kelvin giving an address in 1900 is presumably a confusion with his "Two clouds" speech, delivered to the Royal Institution in 1900 (see above), and which on the contrary pointed out areas that would subsequently see revolutions. In 1898, Kelvin predicted that only 400 years of oxygen supply remained on the planet, due to the rate of burning combustibles. In his calculation, Kelvin assumed that photosynthesis was the only source of free oxygen; he did not know all of the components of the oxygen cycle. He could not even have known all of the sources of photosynthesis: for example the cyanobacterium ''Prochlorococcus''—which accounts for more than half of marine photosynthesis—was not discovered until 1986.


Eponyms

A 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,
kelvin The kelvin is the base unit of temperature Temperature is a physical quantity that expresses hot and cold. It is the manifestation of thermal energy, present in all matter, which is the source of the occurrence of heat, a flow of energy, ...

kelvin


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. **
Copley Medal The Copley Medal is an award given by the Royal Society, for "outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science". It alternates between the physical sciences or mathematics and the biological sciences. Given every year, the medal is t ...
, 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
Largs Largs ( gd, An Leargaidh Ghallda) is a town on the Firth of Clyde in North Ayrshire, Scotland, about from Glasgow. The original name means "the slopes" (''An Leargaidh'') in Scottish Gaelic. A popular seaside resort with a pier, the town mark ...
in the Traditional counties of Scotland, County of Ayrshire, Ayr, 1892. The title derives from the
River Kelvin The River Kelvin (Scottish Gaelic: ''Abhainn Cheilbhinn'') is a tributary of the River Clyde in northern and northeastern Glasgow, Scotland. It rises on the moor south east of the village of Banton, Scotland, Banton, east of Kilsyth. At almo ...
, which runs by the grounds of the
University of Glasgow , image_name = University_of_Glasgow_Coat_of_Arms.jpg , image_size = 150px , latin_name = Universitas Glasguensis , motto = la, Via, Veritas, Vita ''Via et veritas et vita'' (, ) is a Latin language, Latin phrase meaning "the way and the t ...

University of Glasgow
. 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
mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained ( ...

mathematician
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
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics a ...

Isaac Newton
. *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.


Arms


See also

*Taylor column *List of people on banknotes#Scotland, People on Scottish banknotes *List of things named after Lord Kelvin


References


Kelvin's works

* 2nd edition, 1883. (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009. ) **
Treatise on Natural Philosophy (Part I)
' (Internet Archive) **
Treatise on Natural Philosophy (Part II)
' (Internet Archive) * (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2010. ) 2nd edition, 1879. * * * (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2010. ) 2nd edition, 1879. * (6 volumes) *
Volume I. 1841-1853
(Internet Archive) *
Volume II. 1853-1856
(Internet Archive) *
Volume III. Elasticity, heat, electro-magnetism
(Internet Archive) *
Volume IV. Hydrodynamics and general dynamics
(Hathitrust) *
Volume V. Thermodynamics, cosmical and geological physics, molecular and crystalline theory, electrodynamics
(Internet Archive) *
Volume VI. Voltaic theory, radioactivity, electrions, navigation and tides, miscellaneous
(Internet Archive) * (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2010. ) * * *


Biography, history of ideas and criticism

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * In two volume
Volume 1Volume 2
* * * *


External links

* * * *
''Heroes of the Telegraph''
at The Online Books Page
"Horses on Mars", from Lord Kelvin

William Thomson: king of Victorian physics
at Institute of Physics website *
Measuring the Absolute: William Thomson and Temperature
', Hasok Chang and Sang Wook Yi (PDF file) *
Reprint of papers on electrostatics and magnetism
' (gallica) *
The molecular tactics of a crystal
' (Internet Archive) *
Quotations. This collection includes sources for many quotes.
'


The Kelvin Library
{{DEFAULTSORT:Kelvin, William Thomson, 1st Baron William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, 1824 births 1907 deaths 19th-century British mathematicians 20th-century British mathematicians Academics of the University of Glasgow Alumni of Peterhouse, Cambridge Alumni of the University of Glasgow Barons in the Peerage of the United Kingdom British physicists Burials at Westminster Abbey Catastrophism Chancellors of the University of Glasgow Elders of the Church of Scotland Fellows of the Royal Society Fluid dynamicists Foreign associates of the National Academy of Sciences John Fritz Medal recipients Knights Bachelor Knights Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order Members of the Order of Merit Members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom Members of the Prussian Academy of Sciences Members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Ordained peers People associated with electricity People educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution People of the Industrial Revolution Physicists from Northern Ireland Presidents of the Physical Society Presidents of the Royal Society Presidents of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Recipients of the Pour le Mérite (civil class) Recipients of the Copley Medal Royal Medal winners Second Wranglers Scientists from Belfast Theistic evolutionists Creators of temperature scales Ulster Scots people Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame inductees Recipients of the Matteucci Medal Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society Peers of the United Kingdom created by Queen Victoria