Church to honour father of modern physics

The baton has been specially created by a Scottish company in recognition of Maxwell’s revolutionary scientific discoveries on the nature of light.

The Moderator of the General Assembly held a unique light baton in tribute to the legendary scientist and Kirk elder James Clerk Maxwell, who is being honoured at this year's Edinburgh Science Festival with a special concert organised by the Church.

At a ceremony at in Edinburgh on Friday Rt Rev John Chalmers received the 'light baton' from Prof Tom Stevenson, who helped design it.

The baton has been specially created by a Scottish company in recognition of Maxwell's revolutionary scientific discoveries on the nature of light.The baton, which is travelling around Scotland as a tangible symbol of the International Year of Light, was developed with support from the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

It is technically very sophisticated, using the latest LED technology, and in its base is a tablet which scrolls Maxwell's equations. Friday was its first public engagement since it was launched last week. James Clerk Maxwell is one of Scotland's greatest scientists. His discoveries in the 19th Century helped usher in the era of modern physics, laying the foundation for such fields as special relativity and quantum mechanics. His research led to the discovery of radio waves, and he is also credited with creating the world's first colour photograph using a piece of tartan.

Moderator of the General Assembly, Rt Rev John Chalmers, said: "An elder of the Church of Scotland, Maxwell was as bold in his approach to his faith as he was to his science. Founding director of the world famous Cavendish Laboratories in Cambridge, Maxwell was also a humorous and warm-hearted man who loved writing poetry

"This year, which has been designated as the UN International Year of Light, marks 150 years since the publication of Maxwell's work on the nature of light, which laid the basis for much of modern physics."

The Church of Scotland's Society, Religion and Technology Project is contributing its own tribute to Maxwell through a special event at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. 'And through the dark the brilliant light' - on 11 April (3pm to 4.30pm) at the National Museum of Scotland – is a narrative of Maxwell's life interwoven with music and song, and includes some of the scientist's own poems, as well as pieces by Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, a direct descendant.

Book a ticket.