Parton, Galloway

Mathematical Gazetteer of the British Isles

James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) lived at 'Glenlair', four miles NE of Parton, Galloway (now Dumfries & Galloway), about 20 miles west of Dumfries, particularly during his retirement from academic life in 1865-1871, when he rebuilt the house. A special post-box had to be installed near the house to deal with his voluminous correspondence [1]. In a letter to Tait on 11 December 1867, he first suggests 'Maxwell's Demon', a name coined by Kelvin [2]. The house burned in 1929, but the brick shell remains.

This now lies in the Parish of Corsock, where the present church has a memorial window and plaque.

He died in Cambridge and was buried in the family grave alongside his parents and wife in Parton churchyard. The Parton postmaster is trying to raise funds to erect a plaque. [3]; [4]

The family name is actually Clerk, a distinguished family based at Penicuik - his great-great-great-grandfather was the first Baronet. (His great-great-grandfather was Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, judge and antiquary, a signatory to the Treaty and Act of Union of 1707: I recommend the CD of his cantatas, which feature masonic number-symbolism, performed by Catherine Bott and Concerto Caledonia (Hyperion CDA67007, 1998) - Tony Mann). His great-grandfather inherited the Maxwell estates from his wife, adopting the name Maxwell, and these were then inherited as secondary estates, i.e. they could not be held in common with the main Clerk title and estates, but passed to the second son, provided the holder adopted the name Maxwell. Secondary inheritance can get quite confusing, but the Maxwell situation is only mildly confusing. His great-grandfatherwas a second son, but his elder brother died without issue and so the great-grandfather inherited the title - but what happened to the Maxwell estate then is not shown in my source. Maxwell's grandfather was a second son and adopted the name Maxwell. He died before his elder brother, a Clerk, who died without heir, so the title passed to Maxwell's father's elder brother, Sir George Clerk (1787-1867), FRS, FRSE. Sir George was a successful MP and politician, becoming Master of the Mint in 1845 and President of the (London) Zoological Society in 1862. He appears to have had only one son, so the Maxwell estates descended to our man. [5] (The [6] states that our man was the grandnephew of Sir George Clerk FRS FRSE.)

References (show)

  1. Smith-Rose, R. L. James Clerk Maxwell. A Mathematical Physicist of the Nineteenth Century. Longmans, Green & Co., London, for the British Council, 1948. p.9
  2. Maxwell, James Clerk Foundation. James Clerk Maxwell Commemorative Booklet. (Produced by the James Clerk Maxwell Foundation on the occasion of the Fourth International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics coming to Edinburgh in July 1999.)
  3. Hartwick, J. M. Letter: Genius that gets forgotten. The Guardian (London) (23 Sep 1986) 10. Letter from Hartwick
  4. The Clerk Maxwell Route.: One page sent by Hartwick.
  5. Forfar, D. O. The origins of the Clerk (Maxwell) genius. Bull. Inst. Math. Appl. 28:1/2 (Jan/Feb 1992) 4-16.
  6. Dictionary of National Biography

The Mathematical Gazetteer of the British Isles was created by David Singmaster.
The original site is at THIS LINK.