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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book and even better subject
This is an excellent book, well-written, interesting and comprehensive. For many years I have wondered why Maxwell is not ranked along with Einstein and Newton and this book reinforced that opinion. I find historical biographies like this by far the best way to get a good understanding of where we are now and why - much better than the patronising popular science books...
Published on 6 Jun 2007 by Dr. John P. Yardley

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but...
I really enjoyed reading this book which covers the life of James Clerk Maxwell, the man famous for his equations that tied together electricity and magnetism to create formulae for electro-magnetic radiation including light. The book covered his life and his science and made me aware of just how much more he had contributed in addition to these famous equations. As it...
Published on 10 July 2011 by John Bland


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but..., 10 July 2011
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This review is from: The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (Paperback)
I really enjoyed reading this book which covers the life of James Clerk Maxwell, the man famous for his equations that tied together electricity and magnetism to create formulae for electro-magnetic radiation including light. The book covered his life and his science and made me aware of just how much more he had contributed in addition to these famous equations. As it goes through his life it gives you enough to understand what he did, where he did it, and with who etc.. And it's a nice length too.

But a few disappointments. Firstly there was some maths in there, but not enough to really understand (unless I suspect you had already done it at University). So we are introduced for example to curl. The author makes a valiant attempt to describe what this means, but for me ultimately he fails -- there just isn't quite enough to "get it". And even with repeated recourse to Wiki, I'm still not sure I've quite got it. So either more maths and diagrams or less.

Secondly there is nothing bad said about him. I could just about live with this until I read the authors comments about his wife. There, despite the fact that everyone seems not to have liked her, the author refrains from that conclusion, preferring to question the reliability of the sources of criticism. So I have to conclude that Dr Mahon is rather biased and blind to any faults Maxwell may have had. In the Authors mind it seems Maxwell can do no wrong.

Thirdly most of the notes should have been in the text. All were interesting so no need to relegate them to the end

And lastly I do wish he referred to Maxwell and not to James. I've just read a biography of Einstein and I can't imagine anyone referring to Albert all the way through. So I found "James this" and "James that" way to informal, and rather irritating -- but then that is a personal preference.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book and even better subject, 6 Jun 2007
By 
Dr. John P. Yardley "djpy" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (Paperback)
This is an excellent book, well-written, interesting and comprehensive. For many years I have wondered why Maxwell is not ranked along with Einstein and Newton and this book reinforced that opinion. I find historical biographies like this by far the best way to get a good understanding of where we are now and why - much better than the patronising popular science books attempting to convert maths into English. When you see, as this book shows you, the reasons why people like Maxwell were motivated, you can really begin to relate to significance of their work without needing to fully understand the detailed science behind it. Highly recommended.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very decent biography, 16 Jan 2008
By 
Christian Jongeneel (Rotterdam, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (Paperback)
Probably because he was a more boring person than ill tempered Newton and pacifist Einstein few people know James Clerk Maxwell, but still he completes the threesome of greatest scientists ever for his theory that unified electricity and magnetism into one series of laws, for his contributions to thermodynamics and a host of other things.

No juicy fights then, nor political confrontations, which should not discredit this book. It's just that its subject, however important, is not the most exciting man ever to roam the realm of science. This book matches Maxwell in decency and thoughtfulness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Biography of a Brilliant Thinker, 19 July 2010
This review is from: The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (Paperback)
James Clerk Maxwell is one of the greatest scientists that has ever lived and this book very simply explains why. Basil Mahon has written a biography which covers much of the brilliant thinking of Maxwell and does so in a way that is approachable for the everyday reader. Maxwell's life story and theories are put into historical context and the importance of Maxwell's discoveries are clearly shown. Perhaps because Maxwell was such a decent Christian man and not mired in rivalries or controversies the book is no thriller. However if you want to understand the life and impact of this amazing Scot then this is the book to read.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Electricity and magnetism united, 15 April 2010
By 
Dr. H. A. Jones "Howard Jones" (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (Paperback)
The Man Who Changed Everything: The life of James Clerk Maxwell, by Basil Mahon, John Wiley, 2004, 248 ff.

Electricity and magnetism united
By Howard Jones

Maxwell's is not a name that is likely to be as familiar as those of other great scientists we learn about in school: Newton, Boyle, Hooke, Faraday, for example. This may be because following much of Maxwell's work requires university standard mathematics. However, in this fascinating biography that moves through the chapters of his life, this higher mathematics is mostly confined to the Notes.

Maxwell was born in Edinburgh in 1831 and died at Cambridge in 1879 at age only 48. His study of philosophy at Edinburgh University stood him in good stead for his scientific work. He developed a great interest in geology, inspired no doubt by the work of those pioneer Scottish geologists Hutton, Geikie and Lyell. From this interest, Maxwell was one of the first to study glaciers and he invented the seismograph for the measurement of earthquakes. His interest in the properties of polarised light was stimulated by a visit to the workshop of Edinburgh optician, William Nicol. James already had three years at Edinburgh University behind him when he went to Cambridge University at only 19. At Trinity College he came under the tutelage of the famous polymath, William Whewell, as Master of the College. Here, as well as his academic studies, he wrote satirical poetry, `much closer to W.S. Gilbert than Tom Lehrer', as Mahon puts it. This early background is engagingly told by Mahon.

But it is for his papers on electromagnetism that Maxwell is best know. The fact that charges and magnets act on one another through space gave rise to two theories - the `action-at-a-distance', like gravity, favoured by Newton, and the `lines-of-force' theory advocated by Faraday. Maxwell resolved this controversy in favour of the latter. He also worked on diffusion in gases and a mathematical study of the nature of Saturn's rings, so the electromagnetic equations are only the most significant of his studies in a number of different fields of science. He helped to found the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge and he was a friend of Faraday's and also of William Thomson (later, Lord Kelvin).

This is an interesting, informative and highly readable biography, though as it deals with some quite difficult scientific concepts, some background in maths and science is undoubtedly an advantage in getting the most out of it. There is perhaps too much room devoted to Maxwell's uninspiring poetry, but the book has a Chronology of Maxwell's life, a short Bibliography of related books, a couple of dozen pages of additional Notes, which include some of the more mathematically difficult stuff, and a good, detailed Index.

Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, U.K.

The Electric Life of Michael Faraday
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tantalisingly out of reach, 26 Dec 2012
By 
S. Meadows (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (Paperback)
I'm not normally a big fan of reading biographies, but I think that's because, early on in life, I was exposed to some ghost-written autobiographies that were neither illuminating nor interesting. But my interest was re-kindled a couple of years ago when I read The Strangest Man, a biography of the physicist Paul Dirac which I would highly recommend it to you.

Anyway, back to this book. This is a fairly recent biography of James Clerk Maxwell, another of my scientific heroes. While he is a name familiar to many (though the author labours under the impression that Maxwell is unknown to all but professional scientists) my main dealing with him was whilst I was doing my maths degree. Having done a lot of vector calculus which Maxwell had helped develop and formalise, I opted for a 3rd year module in Electromagnetism where we applied the vector calculus we had previously learned and trod in Maxwell's footsteps, deriving the mathematical basis for electromagnetic theory.

As for the man himself, however, I would confess relative ignorance. Aside from the work which made him famous, all I knew of him was that he was a christian and that he was the driving force behind the foundation of the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge. The latter two elements combining to explain the inscription above the door, "Magna opera Domini exquisite in omnes voluntates ejus." ("The works of the Lord are great sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.")

Yet Mahon's biography is almost entirely work-based. While the account of Maxwell's early life makes for good reading with some insights into Maxwell's the man, the last 2/3rds of the book is little more than a list of achievements and activities. The man himself becomes just a name and the reader is not afforded an insight into his life or his thoughts. The only exception to this is when Mahon gives us little snippets of poetry that Maxwell wrote.

Possibly the most frustrating element is that Mahon doesn't give Maxwell's equations of electrodynamics in full. He gives a simplified form (in empty space) and then tells the reader that to include electric charges and currents they are slightly altered, without actually giving the full equations. This feels like a real let down, given that was the crowning achievement of Maxwell's career.

The writing style is easy enough to read and should be accessible to anyone who was reasonably good at physics at school - no college or university training is required. But this has cost the reader the ability to see Maxwell in much detail. Instead of being a 3-dimensional figure we can reach out and touch, grasp or turn over in our hands, he is presented to us as a figure in a glass box. He can be admired and one may view him from a limited number of angles, yet he remains tantalisingly out of reach.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars J C Maxwell The Man who Changed Everything. Book review, 18 Sep 2012
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This review is from: The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (Paperback)
Very good and detailed information about the life of the scientist James C Maxwell since he was born until he died . The book also describes the discoveries he made about electricity and electromagnetism ,and the postulation of its mathematical equations.
Also narrates how he found out his famous equation which correlates the speed of light with the velocity of electromagnetic waves . Einstein was also inspired in this equation to postulate the theory of relativity and his famous equation correlating mass and energy with the speed of light .
This book must be read by anyone interested in the history and fundamentals of electricity and electromagnetism .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, highly recommend, 5 Feb 2011
By 
Jeff (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (Paperback)
Excellent book, supurbly written. The story of a man who cemented one of the pillars of which all modern science rests upon.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest Natural Philosopher, 17 July 2014
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D. M. Sang "dereksang" (norwich uk) - See all my reviews
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This is a superb biography on one of the most important mathematical physisists. He ranks alongside Einstien and Newton yet very few people have heard of him (I only knew of him because he was chair of Natural Philosophyat my alma mater. The book is well written and covers much more than just his achievements (which would be a good sized book in its self ranging from the first durable colour photograph to the theory of electromagnetism) but fills in the man's character. A good interesting read. Would recommend it to anyone
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 21 Jun 2014
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A wonderful book about an unheard of hero. He was another Einstein and we should remember that. The book highlights his life wonderfully
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