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The publication in 1890 of the two-volume Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, edited by W. D. Niven, was one of the two objects of a committee formed 'for the purpose of securing a fitting memorial of him' (the other object being the commissioning of a marble bust for the Cavendish Laboratory). Before his death in 1879 at the age of 48, Clerk Maxwell had made major contributions to many areas of theoretical physics and mathematics, not least his discoveries in the fields of electromagnetism and of the kinetic theory of gases, which have been regarded as laying the foundations of all modern physics. He is generally considered the third most important physicist of all time, after Newton and Einstein. These collected shorter works, beginning with a paper written at the age of 15, show the wide range of Clerk Maxwell's interests across mathematics, physics and chemistry.
Volume I: Preface; 1. On the description of oval curves and those having a plurality of foci; 2. On the theory of rolling curves; 3. On the equilibrium of elastic solids; 4. On the transformation of surfaces by bending; 5. On a particular case of the descent of a heavy body in a resisting medium; 6. On the theory of colours in relation to colour-blindness; 7. Experiments on colour as perceived by the eye, with remarks on colour-blindness; 8. On Faraday's lines of force; 9. Description of a new form of the Platometer, an instrument for measuring the areas of plane figures drawn on paper; 10. On the elementary theory of optical instruments; 11. On a method of drawing the theoretical forms of Faraday's lines of force without calculation; 12. On the unequal sensibility of the Foramen Centrale to light of different colours; 13. On the theory of compound colours with reference to mixtures of blue and yellow light; 14. On an instrument to illustrate Poinsont's theory of rotation; 15. On a dynamical top, for exhibiting the phenomena of the motions of a body of invariable form about a fixed point, with some suggestions as to the earth's motion; 16. Account of experiments on the perception of colour; 17. On the general laws of optical instruments; 18. On theories of the constitution of Saturn's rings; 19. On the stability of the motion of Saturn's rings; 20. Illustrations of the dynamical theory of gases; 21. On the theory of compound colours and the relations of the colours of the spectrum; 22. On the theory of three primary colours; 23. On the physical lines of force; 24. On reciprocal figures and diagrams of forces; 25. A dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field; 26. On the calculation of the equilibrium and stiffness of frames. Volume II: 27. On the viscosity or internal friction of air and other gases; 28. On the dynamical theory of gases; 29. On the theory of the maintenance of electric currents by mechanical work without the use of permanent magnets; 30. On the equilibrium of a spherical envelope; 31. On the best arrangement for producing a pure spectrum on a screen; 32. The construction of stereograms of surfaces; 33. On reciprocal diagrams in space and their relation to Airy's function of stress; 34. On governors; 35. Experiment in magneto-electric induction; 36. On a method of making a direct comparison of electrostatic with electromagnetic force; 37. On the cyclide; 38. On a bow seen on the surface of ice; 39. On reciprocal figures, frames, and diagrams of forces; 40. On the displacement in a case of fluid motion; 41. Address to the mathematical and physical sections of the British Association, 1870; 42. On colour-vision at different points of the retina; 43. On hills and dales; 44. Introductory lecture on experimental physics; 45. On the solution of electrical problems by the transformation of conjugate functions; 46. On the mathematical classification of physical quantities; 47. On colour vision; 48. On the geometrical mean distance of two figures on a plane; 49. On the induction of electric currents in an infinite plane sheet of uniform conductivity; 50. On the condition that, in the transformation of any figure by curvilinear co-ordinates in three dimensions, every angle in the new figure shall be equal to the corresponding angle in the original figure; 51. Reprint of Papers on electrostatics and magnetism. By Sir W. Thomson. (Review); 52. On the proof of the equations of motion of a connected system; 53. On a problem in the calculus of variations in which the solution is discontinuous; 54. On action at a distance; 55. Elements of natural philosophy. By Sir W. Thomson and P. G. Tait. (Review); 56. On the theory of a system of electrified conductors, and other physical theories involving homogeneous quadratic functions; 57. On the focal lines of a refracted pencil; 58. An Essay on the mathematical principles of physics. By Rev. James Chall