Nevill Mott, 19 November 1981
James Clerk Maxwell was born in 1831. He held chairs at Aberdeen and London and was the first head of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. He died at the early age of 48, leaving behind, as well as much other first-rate work in physics, something quite epoch-making, ‘Maxwell’s equations’, which predicted clearly that electromagnetic waves could exist, and that light was of this nature. He did not go on to generate radio waves: one wonders why, and why this had to wait for some decades. But the correct theory was all there, in two papers in the Philosophical Magazine published in the early 1860s.