1] Tyndallic: John Tyndall (1820-1893), physicist, F.R.S., D.C.L. Oxon., LL.D. Cantab., F.C.P.S., and professor of natural philosophy in the Royal Institution. Maxwell plays on the well-known Pindaric ode, which imitates the passionate manner of Pindar, a Greek poet (ca. 552-442 B.C.).
"Nabla was the name of an Assyrian harp of the shape Δ. Δ is a quaternion operator ( i[*]d/dx + j[*]d/dx + k[*]d/dx ) invented by Sir W. P. Hamilton, whose use and properties were first fully discussed by Professor Tait, who is therefore called the `Chief Musician upon Nabla.'" (Note by Campbell.) Maxwell alludes to Peter Guthrie Tait (1831-1901).
3] Melting: v.r. They melt. (Note by Campbell.)
4] Get: v.r. Grow. (Note by Campbell.)
15] The double D: the operation of nabla, "iddx + jddy + kddz" (OED, "nabla") uses the double-d symbol.
Magnesian b: having magnesia.
16] Thallium, a rare metal discovered in 1861: "I [Crookes] have thought..to propose for it the provisional name of Thallium, from the Greek qalloj, or Latin thallus, a budding twig which I have chosen as the green line which it communicates to the spectrum recals with peculiar vividness the fresh colour of vegetation at the present time" (OED).
22] disc: v.r. dish. (Note by Campbell.)
23] will it: v.r. like to. (Note by Campbell.)
24] How ever shall we: v.r. By Jove, I'll have to. (Note by Campbell.)
31] v.r. What fish, what whale is this, that through. (Note by Campbell.)
32] empty: v.r. vacuous. (Note by Campbell.)
38] And v.r. I. (Note by Campbell.)
upon: v.r. about. (Note by Campbell.)
39] responds: v.r. bows down. (Note by Campbell.)
55] Till: v.r. That. (Note by Campbell.)
56] Become: v.r. May be. (Note by Campbell.)
61] top: v.r. tower. (Note by Campbell.)
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: Lewis Campbell, The Life of James Clerk
Maxwell, with a selection from his correspondence and occasional writings and a
sketch of his contributions to science (London: Macmillan, 1882): 634-36.
QC 16 M4C3 Gerstein Library
First publication date: 1882
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2001
Recent editing: 1:2002/10/5
Other poems by James Clerk Maxwell