William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, was an Irish mathematical physicist and engineer. He was born in Belfast in 1824 and attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Glasgow University and Cambridge University, where he gained a reputation as a precocious and gifted scientist. In 1846, at the age of 22, he was appointed to the chair of natural philosophy in the University of Glasgow, a post he held for over 50 years.
At the University of Glasgow he did important work in the mathematical analysis of electricity and formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and did much to unify the emerging discipline of physics in its modern form. He is also widely known for determining the correct value of the lower limit to temperature (absolute zero); absolute temperatures are measured in units of Kelvin in his honour.
Thomson also became famous for his scientific work and inventions. In 1854, he began work on transatlantic telegraph cables, and participated in several cable-laying expeditions. An enthusiastic yachtsman, he made inventions and improvements in naval architecture and navigation. He also developed accurate methods for measuring electricity and contributed to electrical standardization.
He married twice; first to his childhood sweetheart Margaret Crum, who died in 1870 after many years of poor health, and second to Fanny Blandy of Madeira in 1874. No issue.
Thomson was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1866 in recognition of his achievements, and ennobled in 1892, becoming Baron Kelvin (after the River Kelvin in Glasgow). He was the first British scientist to be elevated to the House of Lords.
He died in 1907 in Netherhall, his home in Largs, and is buried in Westminster Abbey next to Isaac Newton.
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