Who wrote Maxwell's equations, or Beethoven's 10th symphony?

(Updated below) A recent issue of The Institute has an interesting article pointing out the role Oliver Heaviside played in developing Maxwell's equations as we know them today. Michael Geselowitz notes, “Every electrical engineer is aware of Maxwell's equations: four mathematical expressions that in elegant form explain the full behavior of electromagnetism…. However, many are not aware that between 1860 and 1861, Maxwell actually developed a set of 20 equations to explain electromagnetic radiation, and they included terms for both fields and potentials.”

The complexity of Maxwell's equations made them difficult to apply, Geselowitz writes, “So, using a new notation, Heaviside simplified Maxwell's original equations to the four, using only terms for fields that we employ to this day.”

Geselowitz writes that the four equations were originally referred to with reference to Maxwell, Heaviside, and Heinrich Hertz. It seems, however, that Einstein played the role of PR agent for Maxwell. Writes Geselowitz, “Albert Einstein referred to them as Maxwell's equations in his 1940 monograph 'Considerations Concerning the Fundamentals of Theoretical Physics.' The name stuck, and Heaviside faded from public view.”

Geselowitz adds parenthetically, “Hertz at least had a unit named after him.” But of course, Heaviside hasn't faded from view. He has a layer named after him.

In any event, Geselowitz's article is well worth reading.

And by the way, Beethoven's 10th was written by Brahms, according to the conductor Hans von Bülow in 1887, although there has been an effort to reconstruct, based on fragments and sketches, a first movement that Beethoven might have written had he lived.

Update (5/29): You can find Maxwell's 20 equations here.

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