Maxwell and the integration of light with magnetism. Maxwell and the light

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Today, there are the most varied pieces of equipment that have electromagnetic waves as their working principle. James Clark Maxwell was the first to predict the existence of electromagnetic waves, but the proof of this existence was given 30 years later, by Heinrich Hertz. Therefore, we can say that this discovery about electromagnetic waves demonstrated the importance of theoretical research for technological development.

Maxwell demonstrated, using the analogy of the oscillations of the electric and magnetic fields to the oscillations of a fluid, that these oscillations could propagate in the same way as mechanical waves. Maxwell imagined that these waves would propagate in a medium he called the ether, an invisible medium that would involve all objects.

The idea of ​​the existence of the ether lasted until the establishment of the Theory of Relativity, in the second decade of the 20th century. Using the properties of electric and magnetic fields, known at the time, Maxwell calculated the propagation speed of these waves, obtaining the value of 3x10

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8 m / s, which he recognized as the value of the speed of light. Taking this discovery as a reference, he proposed that visible light should be an electromagnetic wave.

Maxwell, in 1864, joined, or rather, unified and generalized the Laws of Coulomb, Ampère, Faraday and Lenz, enunciating what we know today as the Laws of Maxwell. In a simplified way, they said that:

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- The force between point charges is directly proportional to the product of the charges and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them (Coulomb's Law).

- There are no magnetic monopoles.

- A changing electric field or an electric current can create a magnetic field..

Maxwell's work was not well accepted by the scientific community at the time. There was no experimental proof of the relationship between light and electrical and magnetic phenomena. When he died, there were no tributes to him. Only vision scientists like Hertz immediately recognized the importance of his discoveries.

Experimental proof of the existence of electromagnetic waves outside the visible spectrum only occurred in 1888, almost ten years after Maxwell's death. As said, it fell to the German physicist Heinrich Hertz to demonstrate, in an indisputable way, the existence of these waves. Maxwell's contributions have made him one of the greatest scientists of all time.

Several other inventions and discoveries were similarly despised by the community. For example, Alexander Graham Bell tried in 1877 to sell the patent on his invention to the telegraph company, which immediately refused the purchase.

By Domitiano Marques
Graduated in Physics

Would you like to reference this text in a school or academic work? Look:

SILVA, Domitiano Correa Marques da. "Maxwell and the Integration of Light and Magnetism"; Brazil School. Available in: Accessed on June 27, 2021.


Light propagates in a vacuum with the known limit speed: around 300,000 kilometers per second.
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