JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
Around 1870 James Clerk Maxwell--one of the great minds in the history of modern physics--responded to a request by Francis Galton to fill out a questionnaire for Galton's work on the characteristics of people-of-genius, and published as English Men of Science, their Nature and Nurture (1874).
This is a set of Maxwell's responses about himself, as well as his mother and father:
Height; Self:- 5 feet 8 inches tall.
Often laid up before aet 19, never since; never had a headache.
Never had a headache; want of circulation latterly, died aet. 64.
Excellent health till aet. 41, she died the year after.
- Mental Peculiarities:
Fond of mathematical instruments and delighted with the forms of regular figures and curves ofall sorts. Strong mechanical power. Extremely small practical business.
Strongly affected by music when a child, could not tell whether it was pleasant or painful, but ratherthe latter; never forget melodies or the words belonging to them and these run through the mind at all times and not merely when the tunes are in fashion; can play on no instrument and never received instruction in music.
Great continuity and steadiness ; gratitude and resentment weak; pretty strong (note:- the Greekword = affection, fondness, tenderness or love ); not gregarious; thoughts occupied more with things than with persons, social affections limited in range; given to theological ideas and not reticent about them; ... constructiveness of imagination; foresight,
Very great mechanical talent, and good business habits; strongly affected by music; of a mathematical turn of mind. Very steady; much partisanship; very great public spirit; extraordinary constructiveness of imagination; foresight,
Guided by religious thought and very independent of the exhortations of acquaintances, clerical or lay. Religion was a forbidden subject in her father's family as his mother was a Roman Catholic and all discussion was avoided religiously (note:- her father was Robert Hodgson Cay, thJudge and friend of Sir Walter Scott, and her grandmother was Frances Hodgson, of Lintz Switzerland, who was a Roman Catholic.
I always regarded mathematics as the method of obtaining the best shapes and dimensions of things; and this meant not only the most useful and economical, but chiefly the most harmonious and the most beautiful.I was taken to see William Nicol (note:-invented the Nicol Polarizing Prism) and so, with the help of 'Brewster’s Optics'and a glazier's diamond, I worked at polarisation of light, cutting crystals, tempering glass, etc. I should naturally have become an advocate by profession, with scientific proclivities, but the existence of exclusively scientific men, and in particular of Professor Forbes (note: Professor of Physics at Edinburgh University) convinced my father and myself that a profession was not necessary to a useful life.
At home till 10, exclusively.
School, Edinburgh Academy 10-15, then Edinburgh University and Cambridge University (2nd Wrangler.)Education included French, German, logic, natural philosophy, chemistry besides mathematics
Encouraged by my father's knowledge of animals & by my relatives' practice of drawing (note:- Jemima Blackburn’ foremost illustrator of the Victorian era and Maxwell’s cousin).
Living in a house (note:- 31 Heriot Row, Edinburgh’)where there were many interests & going to a day school(note:- ‘Edinburgh Academy’) where the boys were seen at a time when they were fresh and active. I had thus two worlds to balance against one another. On the whole I had the greatest freedom possible to a boy.