from The Open University
Alternatively you can skip the navigation by pressing 'Enter'.
Power to the People: Episode 3: The Customer is Always RightTuesday, 1st December 2015 21:00 - BBC FourThe final episode looks at how SSE are trying to win back their customers' trust following criticism from... Read more: Power to the People: Episode 3: The Customer is Always Right
Power to the People: Episode 3: The Customer is Always RightWednesday, 2nd December 2015 02:25 - BBC Four
The Hunt: Episode 3: Hide and SeekWednesday, 2nd December 2015 02:50 - BBC Two
Catching History's Criminals: The Forensics Story: Instruments Of MurderWednesday, 2nd December 2015 23:20 - BBC Four
Ireland with Simon Reeve: Episode 2Available until Thursday, 7th January 2016 00:45
The Hunt: Episode 4: Hunger at SeaAvailable until Tuesday, 29th December 2015 17:50
Catching History's Criminals: The Forensics Story: Traces Of GuiltAvailable until Tuesday, 29th December 2015 00:00
BBC Inside Science: Astronomy Q&A, CERN and ancient genomesAvailable for over a year
Star Wars VII: Can Jediism be classed as a religion?Can Jediism be classed as a religion, or is it merely a cultural fad? Read more: Star Wars VII: Can Jediism be classed as a religion?
OpenLearn Live: 30th November 2015The man who went into space and became the Cosmos. Then more free learning through the day. Read more: OpenLearn Live: 30th November 2015
Introduction to ecosystemsIf we don’t grasp why ecosystems function, it becomes harder to determine possible reasons for... Try: Introduction to ecosystems now
English: skills for learningThis course is for anybody who is thinking of studying for a university degree and would like to... Try: English: skills for learning now
James Clerk Maxwell
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) is arguably the father of electromagnetism, and...
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) is arguably the father of electromagnetism, and unarguably one of the greatest physicists ever. Einstein called Maxwell's equations 'the most important event in physics since Newton's time, not only because of their wealth of content, but also because they form a pattern for a new type of law'. This unit will examine Maxwell's greatest triumph, the prediction that electromagnetic waves can propagate vast distances through empty space and the realisation that light is itself an electromagnetic wave.
By the end of this free course you should be able to:
- explain the meaning of the emboldened terms and symbols, and use them appropriately;
- state the equation of continuity and use it in simple problems;
- state the conditions under which Ampère's law is true and explain why it does not apply more generally;
- state the Ampère–Maxwell law and explain why it has a greater domain of validity than Ampère's law;
- state and name the differential versions of Maxwell's four laws of electromagnetism;
- recall the properties of linearly polarised plane monochromatic electromagnetic waves in empty space, including their transverse nature, speed and energy flux.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Maxwell's greatest triumph
- 2 The equation of continuity
- 3 The Ampère–Maxwell law
- 4 Maxwell's equations
- 5 Let there be light!
- 6 Appendix: a note on displacement current density
- 7 Unit summary
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn and track your progress. Make your learning visible!
James Clerk Maxwell
James Clerk Maxwell produced a unified theory of the electromagnetic field and used it to show that light is a type of electromagnetic wave. This prediction dates from the early 1860s when Maxwell was at King's College, London. Shortly afterwards Maxwell decided to retire to his family estate in Galloway in order to concentrate on research, unhindered by other duties. He was lured out of retirement in 1871, when he became the first professor of experimental physics in the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge. Given Maxwell's present status as one of the greatest of all physicists, it is astonishing to learn that he was the third choice for this job. Incidentally, Clerk Maxwell (without a hyphen) is a surname; Maxwell's father, John Clerk, simply appended ‘Maxwell’ to his own name in order to smooth a legal transaction.
This unit is from our archive and it is an adapted extract from Topics in the history of mathematics (STM359) which is no longer in presentation. If you wish to study formally at The Open University, you may wish to explore the courses we offer in this.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Wednesday, 11th May 2011
Last updated on: Tuesday, 19th July 2011
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section.
- This site has Copy Reuse Tracking enabled - see our FAQs for more information.
If you enjoyed this, why not follow a feed to find out when we have new things like it? Choose an RSS feed from the list below. (Don't know what to do with RSS feeds?)
Remember, you can also make your own, personal feed by combining tags from around OpenLearn.