William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin bigraphy, stories - Mathematical physicist; engineer

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin : biography

26 June 1824 - 17 December 1907

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin , (26 June 1824 – 17 December 1907) was a Belfast-born British mathematical physicist and engineer. At the University of Glasgow he did important work in the mathematical analysis of electricity and formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and did much to unify the emerging discipline of physics in its modern form. He worked closely with mathematics professor Hugh Blackburn in his work. He also had a career as an electric telegraph 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 by Queen Victoria, becoming Sir William Thomson. He had extensive maritime interests and was most noted for his work on the mariner's compass, which had previously been limited in reliability.

Lord Kelvin is widely known for determining the correct value of absolute zero as approximately -273.15 Celsius. A lower limit to temperature was known prior to Lord Kelvin, as shown in "Reflections on the Motive Power of Heat", published by Sadi Carnot in French in 1824, the year of Lord Kelvin's birth. "Reflections" used -267 as the absolute zero temperature. Absolute temperatures are stated in units of kelvin in his honour.

On his ennoblement in 1892 in honour of his achievements in thermodynamics, and of his opposition to Irish Home Rule, Raymond Flood, Mark McCartney and Andrew Whitaker (2009) J. Phys.: Conf. Ser. 158 011001 p.162 he adopted the title Baron Kelvin of Largs and is therefore often described as Lord Kelvin. He was the first UK scientist to be elevated to the House of Lords. The title refers to the River Kelvin, which flows close by his laboratory at the University of Glasgow. His home was the imposing red sandstone mansion Netherhall, in Largs on the Firth of Clyde. Despite offers of elevated posts from several world renowned universities Lord Kelvin refused to leave Glasgow, remaining Professor of Natural Philosophy for over 50 years, until his eventual retirement from that post. The Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow has a permanent exhibition on the work of Lord Kelvin including many of his original papers, instruments and other artefacts such as his smoking pipe.

Always active in industrial research and development, he was recruited around 1899 by George Eastman to serve as vice-chairman of the board of the British company Kodak Limited, affiliated with Eastman Kodak. Matthew Trainer, Physics in Perspective, (2008) 10, 212-223

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 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 precise specification of the ampere, the standard unit of electric current.

In 1893, Thomson headed an international commission to decide on the design of the Niagara Falls power station. Despite his previous belief in the superiority of direct current electric power transmission, he was convinced by Nikola Tesla's demonstration of three-phase alternating current power transmission at the Chicago World's Fair of that year and agreed to use Tesla's system. In 1896, Thomson said "Tesla has contributed more to electrical science than any man up to his time."

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., O.M., was unanimously elected first President of the Commission," minutes of the Preliminary Meeting Report read.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine