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A Very, Very Brief Biography of Lord Kelvin
By Rochelle Caviness - November 5, 2012
Who was the Baron Kelvin of Largs, known today simply as Lord Kelvin? In short, he was a brilliant scientist and inventor who was elevated by Queen Victoria to the British peerage in 1892. He was the first scientist to ever receive such an honor. This however, is jumping toward the end of our story. So it is necessary to go back to the beginning when Lord Kelvin was known simply as William Thomson . . .
William Thomson was born in Belfast, Ireland on June 26, 1824. His parent's where James Thomson and Margaret Gardner. They were married in 1817 and had seven children. William was their forth child. Margaret died in 1830 when William was only six years old. Thereafter the children were raised by their father who was often aided by Agnes Gall, Margaret's sister. From an early age it was apparent that William was a very intelligent and intellectually curious child. He was primarily home schooled by his father. That is, until the family moved to Glasgow, Scotland where his father took up a position as chair of Glasgow University's mathematics department. Once his father started teaching at the school, William became an unofficial student sitting in on just about any course that he desired. At first the other students must have looked down on the little eight-year-old child, but he quickly gained their respect when he showed that not only could he keep up with the classroom activities, but often he could answer questions that none of the other students could! At the ripe old age of ten, William officially enrolled as a student at Glasgow University.
While at Glasgow University, William won many awards for academic excellence in subjects as diverse as Greek and mathematics. In 1841, William left Glasgow and moved to Cambridge, England where he enrolled as a student at St. Peter's College, Cambridge. By the time he completed his degree he had already made a name for himself within the scientific community, having written a number of highly technical papers that were published in some of the leading publications of the time.
After leaving Cambridge, William worked with Victor Regnault at his laboratory in Paris, France. In 1846 William was appointed as the Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was twenty-two-years-old at the time of his appointment. He held this position until he retired in 1899...
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