Great Scientists and their Inventions

Lord Kelvin(1824-1907)

lord kelvin

image source: wikimedia commons

 Devising the absolute temperature scale, now called the 'Kelvin scale'

 Formulating the second law of thermodynamics

 Working to install telegraph cables under the Atlantic.

William Thomson is popularly known as 1st Baron Kelvin, the creator of ‘absolute zero’ which are low limit temperature units now represented in units of ‘Kelvin’ in his honour. Lord Kelvin, as he is popularly known, is remembered for his outstanding works and achievements in the field of physics and mechanics. Kelvin propounded the first and second Laws of Thermodynamics and brought revolutionary changes in physics to make it emerge as a prominent field of study and research in the modern times. Lord Kelvin became the very first scientist who joined the House of Lords in England. Lord Kelvin was a scientist and a great marine engineering enthusiast. Kelvin’s series of lectures at American Johns Hopkins University gave out the initial formulations of a physical model for the ether. Several physical elements and phenomena are linked with Lord Kelvin – Kelvin wave, Kelvin (temperature), Kelvin sensing, Kelvin bridge and several others.

Scientific Developments

It was in 1845 when Thomson stated his first mathematical development based on Faraday's idea. He found that electric induction happened due to an intervening medium or through dielectric, negating the previous beliefs that some incomprehensible action at a distance caused the inductions. Thomson gave out his first theory of a hypothesis of electrical images which went on to become a great factor in solving problems of electrostatics and science in electricity forces.

In June 1845, William was elected as the fellow of St. Peter's (Peterhouse College was often called by this name at that time). His fellowship made him work in the laboratory of renowned French chemist and scientist Henri Victor Regnault in Paris. But William’s stay in Paris was short termed making him return to the University of Glasgow being appointed to the chair of natural philosophy. It was his sheer genius that made William turn into a well known learned professor barely at the young age of 22 and that too in a University that was of highest value and honour in the nation. William started giving lectures only after a few years had passed when he was a freshman in college.

By 1847 Thomson became a well known independent scientist who went on to attend the British Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting which was held in Oxford. Thomson was impressed by the efforts (presentations) made by James Prescott Joule to discredit caloric theory of heat. Thomson wanted to explain and give out theoretical explanation for heat theory. He explained that the melting point of ice could possibly fall with pressure. Freezing and other theories needed explanation which resulted in William delving into extensive experiments in his laboratory. It was in 1848 that William made an extension into already existing Carnot–Clapeyron theory of temperature. William proposed his historical theory on absolute temperature scale which was based on the descent of a heat unit and the mechanical effect or work based on any number. This theory proposed for the necessity of a scale that would remain independent of the physical properties of any specific substance. Thomson further explained that a temperature point would soon be reached where there would not be any more heat possible for being transferred, which he termed as the point of absolute zero.


Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1847.

Foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 1851.

Fellow of the Royal Society, 1851.

Knighthood in 1866.

Baron Kelvin, of Largs in the County of Ayr, 1892.

First international recipient of John Fritz Medal, 1905.

The town of Kelvin, Arizona, is named in his honour.

Was honoured with his image printed on £20 note issued by the Clydesdale Bank in 1971.


William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) had slipped on ice during the winter of 1860-1861 which had fractured his leg. Since then he limped till his death on 17 December 1907.


If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.