Sir William Thomson

(Lord Kelvin of Largs)

1824 - 1907

Lord Kelvin of Largs
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Lord Kelvin of Largs

Mathematician and Physicist. Brought up in Glasgow, although born in Belfast (N Ireland), Thomson's father was appointed Professor of Mathematics at the University of Glasgow in 1832, an event which brought the family to Scotland. The young Thomson attended Glasgow and Cambridge Universities, before accepting the Chair in Natural Philosophy at Glasgow (1846), which he held for 53 years. Kelvin was one of the most outstanding scientists of his day. He is perhaps best known for the absolute temperature scale which takes his name (Kelvin), but the majority of his work investigated energy, electricity and magnetism. His work allowed the first transatlantic cable to be laid in the mid-19th century, and indeed he became wealthy as a consultant to the company involved. Other work involved the calculation of the age of the earth, based on heat-loss, but ignoring the effects of radio-active heating which had not been discovered at this time. The age he calculated (400 million years) was older than many had suggested, but not old enough for Darwin's Theory of Evolution to operate, and hence Kelvin opposed this theory.

Kelvin was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1866, and raised to the peerage in 1892. He died on his estate near Largs, and is buried in Westminster Abbey. Kelvin Klippe in Dronning Louise Land (Greenland) was named in his honour by the 1952-54 British North Greenland expedition.

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