Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet
S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University
of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.
William Thomson (1824-1907), later known as Lord Kelvin, was a consummate
exponent of 19th-century physical sciences. Trained at Cambridge University,
this precocious mathematician taught for more than 60 years at the University
of Glasgow. His genius and that of his contemporaries laid the basis for fundamentals
of thermodynamics and electromagnetism.
Thomson proposed an absolute temperature scale and collaborated on establishing
electromagnetic metrics. He was instrumental in improving submarine cable
telegraphic transmission and transoceanic navigational systems. In 1892 he
became the first British scientist—nay, natural philosopher—to
receive a peerage from Queen Victoria. He interacted with many scientific
luminaries of that period, including Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley. He
socialized with Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, George Eastman, Alexander
Graham Bell, and George Westinghouse. He accumulated honors, medals, and titles
through science and wealth through discoveries, patents, and consultations.
This pallid school curriculum biography acquires life, luster, and energy
in David Lindley's Degrees Kelvin. Lindley, an astrophysicist
and science writer, has choreographed a very readable story of an amiable
prodigy with inexplicable failings.
Satya-Murti S. Kelvin. JAMA. 2004;292(12):1494-1495. doi:10.1001/jama.292.12.1494