American Scientists – Part II

American Scientists – Part II

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James Gregory is commonly known as the first person to perceive the three-dimensional nature of the earth’s atmosphere. James Gregory, also known as James Graham (died 1638, Drummond, near Argyll and Wearley, Scotland), Scottish mathematics professor and mathematician who found widely expressed mathematical expressions for some of the major trigonometric functions, though he’s primarily remembered for his detailed description of the moon’s orbit around the earth. In fact, many of the moon’s effects on climate are attributed to James Graham’s work.

But it was his analysis of the moon that really triggered James Gregory’s phenomenal insight, leading him to conclude that the moon, and more particularly, its polar elliptical orbit, was essentially a hyperbola. This is exactly what Einstein later termed a geometrical hyperbola. This discovery, or rather the confirmation, led him to formulate his famous theory of relativity, general relativity, on which Einstein based his special theory of relativity. With this new knowledge of the solar system, James Gregory went on to formulate what came to be called a general theory of relativity or, in technical terms, the first “class” of fundamental particles.

A related and equally important discovery, albeit on a smaller scale, was the result of James Clerk Maxwell’s studies of electricity and magnetism. It was Maxwell’s experiments with magnets that finally brought into the open the real cause of electrostatic charge, i.e., electrostatic power, contrary to earlier theories that maintained that the source of electrostatic power was an imaginary excess of force exercised against an insulated conductor by the influence of its poles. It was James Clerk Maxwell’s efforts, therefore, that made possible the widespread use of the word “electricity” throughout the world, including the widely used term “flux” for the movement of electric currents. Thus one can say that the history of science in the United States owes a lot to the brilliance and ideas of James Clerk Maxwell. And even more so, to the impact of his theory of relativity on quantum mechanics and the beginnings of the modern science of electricity and magnetism.

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