Maxwellian revolution

In scientific revolutions, Maxwellian revolution refers to the revolution in scientific thinking brought about by Scottish physicist James Maxwell’s 1865 proposal that light consists of perpendicular electric and magnetic waves.

In 1925, Gilbert Lewis, in his sub-lecture “Light and the Quantum”, gave the following cogent overview of the revolution initiated by Maxwell: [1]

“The older view that these waves were mechanical disturbances in elastic ether has, however, been entirely abandoned in favor of Maxwell’s view that they are periodic disturbances in electric and magnetic fields. It is a most remarkable fact that this great revolution in physical thought has accomplished without abandoning a single one of the set of mathematical equations derived from the old theory of optics.”

German-born American physicist Albert Einstein, cited by Bernard Cohen, said more than once that there was a Maxwellian revolution, and he unambiguously used the word 'revolutionary' in the context of Galileo's Dialogue in 1953. [2]

1. Lewis, Gilbert N. (1925). The Anatomy of Science (pgs. 120-21). Silliman Lectures; Yale University Press, 1926.
2. Cohen, I. Bernard (1985). Revolution in Science (pg. 443). Harvard University Press.

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