James Clerk Maxwell’s Vampire

Stephen R. Wilk

Introducing a lesser-known work of the great 19th-century scientist—a poem about a blood-sucking monster.

Vampyre illustration[Illustration: Maxwell’s “The Vampyre” / Forest: Getty Images]

James Clerk Maxwell, born in Edinburgh, UK, in 1831, is one of the icons of 19th-century science and made discoveries in multiple areas. He is, of course, famous for his eponymous equations describing electromagnetic fields and for his book on electromagnetism. In addition, his work in thermodynamics and kinetic theory led to the derivation of the distribution of velocities in a gas, later generalized by Ludwig Boltzmann and known as the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution. He investigated the rings of Saturn, invented the gradient-index fisheye lens that bears his name and took the first color photograph. The “List of things named after James Clerk Maxwell” Wikipedia page has 32 entries.

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