William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, helped lay the foundations of modern physics and significantly influenced scientific thought in his generation. Thomson developed the second law of thermodynamics and the absolute temperature scale, which is still measured in “kelvins” in his honor. He also contributed to the scientific fields of electricity, magnetism, hydrodynamics, geophysics, and telegraphy, publishing more than 650 papers during his lifetime.
Thomson, a skilled engineer, also helped elevate Britain to the top spot in world communication during the nineteenth century after successfully laying the first transatlantic telegraph cable and inventing a complete system for operating a submarine telegraph. He was knighted by British royalty for his engineering work and later elevated to the House of Lords with the title Baron Kelvin of Largs.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Thomson was a sincere Christian who viewed his faith as supporting and informing his scientific work. Thomson was an elder in the Church of Scotland and Chairman of the Christian Evidence Society in London. He often spoke about the relationship between God and science, stating, “I have long felt that there was a general impression in the non-scientific world [that] believes Science has discovered ways of explaining all the facts of nature without adopting any definite belief in a Creator. I have never doubted that impression was utterly groundless.”
During an address to his peers for the British Association For Science in 1871, Thomson stated, “[O]verpoweringly strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design lie all around us, and if ever perplexities, whether metaphysical or scientific, turn us away from them for a time, they come back upon us with irresistible force, showing to us through Nature the influence of a free will, and teaching us that all living beings depend on one ever-acting Creator and Ruler.”
In addressing science and religion, Thomson stated, “Do not be afraid of being free thinkers. If you think strongly enough you will be forced by science to the belief in God, which is the foundation of all Religion. You will find science not antagonistic, but helpful to Religion.”