James Clerk Maxwell Medal and Prize

In 1961 the Council of the Institute and Society, recognising that none of the awards within its programme could be given for theoretical physics, introduced a new one to be known as the James Clerk Maxwell Medal and Prize which was intended to encourage early career physicists. The award was originally made in even-dated years but became annual in 1970.

The physicist behind the medal
James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish mathematical physicist best known for his unification of electricity, magnetism and light into the single phenomenon of electromagnetism – one of the first such unifications in physics. Maxwell and Ludwig Boltzmann devised an equation describing the probability distribution of speeds in an idealised gas – the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution.
Maxwell also worked on colour perception and applied his theory to pioneering colour photography. Maxwell was a fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a winner of the Rumford Medal of the former and the Keith Medal of the latter. He lends his name to, among others, a compound derived unit of magnetic flux and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope.

The award will be made for exceptional early career contributions to theoretical (including mathematical and computational) physics. The medal will be bronze and will be accompanied by a prize of £1000 and a certificate.


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