Much as Newton’s contribution to calculus was less in the discovery of the techniques than in his vision of how they linked together and what could be done with them, so the equations of James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879) were not, with one partial exception, his discovery, yet he placed his mark upon them in recognizing their basic unity and what they implied. Maxwell’s seminal paper, “A Dynamical Theory of the Electro-Magnetic Field,” read before the Royal Society of London in 1864 and published in its Philosophical Transactions in 1865, explained the nature of electromagnetic potential, revealed it to be intimately connected to the propagation of light, and set the stage for Einstein’s discovery of special relativity.
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