Lord Kelvin: His Influence on Electrical Measurements and Units

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IET, 1992 - Technology & Engineering - 107 pages
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This is a life of Lord Kelvin, who began life as William Thomson, matriculated at Glasgow University at the age of 10 and entered Cambridge University at 17. By the time he was 22, he was back again at Glasgow, but this time as Professor of Natural Philosophy. He had now published the first 20 of a total output of 66 scientific papers and many textbooks. Later, he became the originator of more than 70 patents which were, contrary to the normal fate of many patents, all profitable. Knighted in 1866 for his work on the Atlantic cable project, he was raised to the peerage in 1892, in which year he became President of the Royal Society - the highest scientific honour England could bestow upon him. He was three times President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. A gigantic task faced physicists at the middle of the 19th century. As Kelvin put it, during a lecture on electrical measurement, "...Poisson and Green, and Gauss, and Weber, and Ohm, and Lentz, and Faraday, and Joule, this century, had given us the mathematical and experimental foundation, for a complete system of numerical reckoning...and as early as 1858 a practical beginning of definite electric measurement had been made. ..but fifteen years passed after this beginning before anything that could be called electric measurement, had come to be regularly practised in most of the scientific laboratories of the world". Kelvin was the first to recognize the necessity for a solid scientific foundation for electrical units and standards, and he, more then any other, paved the way for their establishment and eventual international adoption. His insistence on the metric system, and his monumental work in the British Association for the advancement of Science and later at the International Electrical Congresses, beginning with Paris in 1881, continued unceasingly until his death in 1907. Kelvin's great accomplishment was to bring together all the experimental scientists of his time into one co-operative association for investigators whose individual efforts were aided by their combined results, expressed in a notation and described in language understood by everyone.

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Kelvin and the metric system
Electrical measurements
Kelvin and the British Association Electrical Units
International Electrical Congresses
Units and standards for the electrical century

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About the author (1992)

Paul Tunbridge, a Chartered Engineer and member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, started his career at RAF Halton and completed his engineering studies at technical Colleges in Cheltenham and Corby. Following war and overseas service and various staff posts, including several years at the Air Ministry, he opted in 1955 for early retirement to become Personal Assistant to the Chief Engineer in the design office of Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft), Weybridge. In 1960 he joined the Central Office of the international Electrical Commission in Geneva where he was Head of Linguistic Services before retiring in 1986.The author's interest in the history of science and engineering standards has extended over many years. He has had a number of papers published in Notes and Records of the Royal Society and elsewhere on Michael Faraday, Lord Kelvin, Benjamin Franklin etc. On three occasions, he received the Prix Robert Harvey from the University of Geneva. His paper 'The first experimental air-cushion machine' - which the author discovered had been invented as far back as 1866 by Professor Marc Thury of Geneva - was jointly published by the Newcomen Society and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.As well as gaining first prize in an international competition organised by the Italian National Standards Association (UNI) in 1971 for his monograph on standardization, he received from the British Standards Society in 1987 the Fred Butcher Memorial Award for his paper 'The quality factor in company standardization'.

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