Peter Guthrie Tait (1831 - 1901) was significantly less famous than his friends Maxwell and Kelvin, but unfairly so because he was an important and prolific mathematical physicist. He was Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh from 1859, narrowly beating Maxwell to the post, and worked on a variety of topics including thermodynamics and the kinetic theory of gases. In a fantastic experiment involving smoke rings, Tait and Kelvin came up with a new atomic theory based around the idea of knots and links. This took on a mathematical life on its own, with Tait becoming one of the world's first topologists and inventing conjectures which remained unproven for over a hundred years.
This talk was a part of the conference on '19th Century Mathematical Physics', held jointly by Gresham College and the British Society of the History of Mathematics. The transcript and downloadable versions of all of the lectures are available from the Gresham College website:
Gresham College has been giving free public lectures since 1597. This tradition continues today with all of our five or so public lectures a week being made available for free download from our website. There is currently nearly 1,500 lectures free to access or download from the website.
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