The evolution and blossoming of Maxwell's macroscopic view to the modern microscopic theory based on electrons

Sarkar Tapan Kumar, Magdalena Salazar Palma

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


Maxwell first published his famous equations twenty in number in the early 1860s and yet they were not accepted by the scientific community and were not put in the proper form till the early 1880s. The question is why it took over twenty years for the scientific community to grasp Maxwell's ideas? One of the reasons why Maxwell's theory was so difficult to follow as outlined in the first talk was due to the development of Maxwell's thought process through different times. This made Maxwell not to identify his physical pictures with reality. Maxwell felt free to discard one picture and adopt another as often as expediency or convenience demanded. He described his method of procedure in the following words: If we adopt a physical hypothesis, we see the phenomenon only through a medium, and are liable to that blindness to facts and rashness in assumption which a partial explanation encourages. We must therefore discover some method of investigation which allows the mind at every step to lay hold of a clear physical conception, without being committed to any theory founded on physical science for which that conception is borrowed. Maxwell's theory over the years evolved in two different steps. That is the subject matter of this paper. In summary, Maxwell did not believe that light could be generated electromagnetically. In fact, he was silent about electromagnetic waves, and their generation and detection. It took almost twenty five years before Hertz discovered electromagnetic waves and his ingenious experiments confirmed Maxwell's theory. Maxwell's ideas and equations were expanded, modified, and made understandable by the efforts of Hertz, FitzGerald, Lodge, and Heaviside. The last three are being referred to as the 'Maxwellians.' The early history of electromagnetic waves, up to the death of Hertz in 1894 is briefly discussed. The work of Hertz and the Maxwellians is briefly reviewed in the context of electromagnetic waves. It is found that historical facts do not support the views proposed by some, in the past, that Hertz's epoch-making findings and contributions were 'significantly influenced by the Maxwel1ians' and the Maxwell's macroscopic theory is now being transformed to the microscopic theory based on electrons as its discovery came 18 years after Maxwell's death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2015 IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium, IMS 2015
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781479982752
StatePublished - Jul 24 2015
EventIEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium, IMS 2015 - Phoenix, United States
Duration: May 17 2015May 22 2015

Publication series

Name2015 IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium, IMS 2015


OtherIEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium, IMS 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Electromagnetics
  • Faraday
  • FitzGerald
  • Heaviside
  • Helmholtz
  • Hertz
  • History
  • James Clerk Maxwell
  • Larmor
  • Lodge
  • Maxwellians
  • Rowland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Signal Processing
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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