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Why is Maxwell never mentioned?

  1. Sep 10, 2008 #1
    Hello, Im sorry if I posted this in the wrong place.

    When I grew up I never knew who Maxwell was. It wasnt until I became intersted in physics and started to dig a little bit deeper that his name came up. Almost everyone knows who Einstein and Newton is, Feynman is pretty popular and people who worked on the bomb such as Oppenheimer and Teller are names that people without any interest in physics have heard about.
    Overall my opinion is that scientist doesnt get the attention they deserve people are more interested in reading about Britneys new shoes but that's a whole other issue.

    It might just be the country I live in who doesnt give Maxwell the credit he deserves but I got a feeling that he is kinda unknown to the general public everywhere.
    He should be up there right next to Einstein and Newton in my opinion!

    So, Im wondering if you guys agree with me about Maxwells status among the general public or am I completey wrong here? If you agree then why is it so?

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2008 #2


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    I named my dog after him, actually. So he gets mentioned in my house all the time, but it's usually along the lines of, "Maxwell, get out of the kitchen!"
  4. Sep 10, 2008 #3
    There's a brand of coffee named after him.
  5. Sep 10, 2008 #4


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    How many other 19th century scientists do you think the "average person" can name?
    Only Newton and Einstein are really famous and even getting a unit named after you might not help, many people do not even realize that Ampere and the other were real people

    The other people you mention are well-known (well, sort of) not because of their scientific discoveries but because they were "media-personalities". I suspect most people in the US had never heard of Feynman until he became a member of the commitee that investigated the Challenger disatster.
    Oppenheimer and Teller were -as you say- famous because of their involvment with the bomb.

    The same is true for other branches of science, I suspect quite a few people here don't know who Alexander Fleming was...
  6. Sep 10, 2008 #5
    The general public doesnt really care about science in general, forget about them knowing its stalwarts.
  7. Sep 10, 2008 #6
    Britney got new shoes ? Wow ! Do you have pics ? :tongue2:

    Seriously: When I learned about electronics as a boy, I thought that all the good and fun stuff was brought to us my Mr. Ohm, I had no idea that Maxwell came first, and in a more fundamental sense. But about Teller and Oppenheimer I learned even later than about Maxwell.

    As for the place where he SHOULD be - I agree with you, next to Einstein and Newton.
  8. Sep 10, 2008 #7
    I do remember learning about Maxwell's equations in physics class, I think it may of been in High School. Not so much about the man himself, but of his work.

    Another note, after Maxwell's death, two other gentlemen combined and simplified his equations. Although I don't think the work was ever credited to them, some people might only recall that fact and forget about Maxwell.

    Einstein actually kept a picture of Maxwell in his office next to ones of Faraday and Newton.
  9. Sep 10, 2008 #8
    It does seem a little strange that Maxwell's name is not as well known as Newton and Einstein. The story of how Halley brought Newton's name to the attention of the world, and Eddington for Einstein is well known. I guess Maxwell was just unlucky in this department. He forms part of one of the most important conversations in physics.

    Newton: You can't tell how fast you are going.
    Maxwell: Yes you can.
    Einstein: No you can't.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2008
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