A portrait of Lord Kelvin (1824-1907) by Sir Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914).
William Thomson was born in Belfast. His father was Professor of Engineering at the University there, but in 1832 was elected to the Chair of Mathematics at the University of Glasgow. Father and son had a very close relationship and William studied mathematics with his father from an early age. He became a student at the University of Glasgow when he was just 10 years of age and won a gold medal for his Essay on the Figure of the Earth at the age of 15. The essay contained many important scientific ideas to which he returned throughout his life.
Thomson went to study mathematics at Cambridge University in 1841, graduating in 1845. In 1846 he accepted the post of Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, remaining there until 1899. Thomson published over 600 papers during his working life and became one of the world's leading scientists. He was knighted in 1866 and elevated to the peerage as Baron Kelvin of Largs in 1892.
Reproduced with the permission of Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Museums
mathematics, Natural Philosophy, oil paintings, portraits, professors, scientists, University of Glasgow