Jul 252016
 

Appleton Tower.Appleton Tower, 11 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9LE

Sir Edward Victor Appleton became Principal of the University of Edinburgh in 1949. He had previously received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1947 for his research on the ionosphere. The University’s Appleton Tower on George Square, completed in 1963, was named after him. This building was a central part of the development plan for the University championed by Appleton, which  would have seen swathes of the South Side of the city demolished to make way for modern buildings. Although plan was never completed, many beautiful Georgian Terraces were sacrificed to make way for the new development.

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Sir Edward Victor Appleton, 1947.

Sir Edward Victor Appleton, 1947.

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Jul 252016
 

Charles Piazzi Smyth's house.15 Royal Terrace, Edinburgh EH7 5AB

Charles Piazzi Smyth, Scotland’s second Astronomer Royal, was appointed Regius Professor of Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh in 1846. Perhaps inspired by the poor observing conditions at the Edinburgh’s Royal Observatory, he proposed building an observatory on the peak of Mount Teide on Tenerife. However, the construction of an observatory on this mountain had to wait until 1964. While Piazzi Smith did important work on spectroscopy, he is perhaps better remembered for his eccentric theories regarding the pyramids, the dimensions of which he believed had a religious significance. Sadly, these speculations did much to tarnish his reputation.

 

Portrait of Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819–1900).

Portrait of Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819–1900).

Piazzi Smyth's pyramid-shaped tombstone in the Sharow Churchyard, Yorkshire.

Piazzi Smyth’s pyramid-shaped tombstone in the Sharow Churchyard, Yorkshire.

Title page of Piazzi Smyth, Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramids (1874).

Title page of Piazzi Smyth, Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramids (1874).

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Edinburgh Museums and Galleries: Space and Time, Charles Piazzi Smyth

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Apr 192016
 

5 Roxburgh Street, Edinburgh EH8 9TA

Peter Higgs' former house

Peter Higgs is famous for predicting the existence of a new fundamental subatomic particle, now named in his honour the ‘Higgs boson’, while a Lecturer at the Tait Institute of Mathematical Physics in Edinburgh. Its existence solves the problem of why electrons and quarks have mass. He predicted its existence in 1964 in a paper written in a flat at 5 Roxburgh Street. However, was not until 2012 that it was confirmed that it existed by the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest scientific instrument, near Geneva. This discovery earned Higgs the Nobel Prize for Physics.

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Peter Higgs (1929– ).

Peter Higgs (1929– ).

 

Peter Higgs plaque

Peter Higgs plaque.

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Apr 172016
 

14 India Street, Edinburgh EH3 6EZ

Birthplace of James Clerk Maxwell

Now home to a museum of his life and work, this was the childhood home of James Clerk Maxwell, famous for his revolutionary work on electromagnetism and the kinetic theory of gases. Maxwell was born here in 1831. His A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field (1865) demonstrated that both electric and magnetic fields and light travel through space as waves at the speed of light. This work laid the foundations for the invention of the radio. Clerk Maxwell’s was perhaps the most important contribution to theoretical physics between Newton and Einstein.

The house is now owned by the James Clerk Maxwell Foundation and my be visited by appointment.

 

Statue to James Clerk Maxwell by Alexander Stoddart, George Street, Edinburgh, unveiled 2008.

Statue to James Clerk Maxwell by Alexander Stoddart, George Street, Edinburgh, unveiled 2008.

James Clerk Maxwell (1831–79).

James Clerk Maxwell (1831–79).

Plaque at the birthplace of James Clerk Maxwell.

Plaque at the birthplace of James Clerk Maxwell.

 

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Apr 172016
 

38 Calton Hill, Edinburgh, EH7 5AA

The City Observatory on Calton Hill.

 

An observatory on Calton Hill was first proposed by Colin Maclaurin, Edinburgh’s professor of mathematics, in 1736. However, these plans came to nothing until Thomas Short brought a 12-foot reflecting telescope to the city in 1776, with the intention of opening a public observatory as a commercial enterprise. The university helped him with the cost of building the observatory on condition it was open to students. Short’s observatory became the property of the city on his death, but his daughter Maria Theresa ran her own observatory on Calton Hill before moving to a new site on Castlehill in 1850. Today, the site is run by the Collective, a centre for contemporary art.

 

The Gothic Tower at the Edinburgh City Observatory on Calton Hill, 1792.

The Gothic Tower at the Edinburgh City Observatory on Calton Hill, 1792.

The Playfair Building at the Edinburgh City Observatory on Calton Hill, 1824.

The Playfair Building at the Edinburgh City Observatory on Calton Hill, 1824.

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