The tomb of William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, now stands beside that of Darwin in Westminster Abbey, and a great epoch in history is closed. The nineteenth century will remain preeminent for the supremacy of science and for the advance of industrial democracy. Great Britain more than any other nation has led these movements, and no other of its great men so completely typifies them as he who ranged from cosmic speculations to industrial inventions, who brought together mathematical physics and practical engineering.
While Kelvin retained to the age of eighty-three years much of the vigor, keenness and intellectual curiosity of youth, he belongs in a sense to the middle of the nineteenth century rather than to the more complicated period of its close. For the grandson of an Irish peasant farmer to amass great wealth, discard his plebian name and take a seat in the house of lords is a social ideal of the earlier rather than of the later democracy. So Kelvin's science was static of the forties. He liked models that he could visualize; he did not care for the doctrine of evolution; even in his own field the researches of others did not greatly affect him. This is perhaps typical of genius, especially mathematical genius, which seems to develop early, to be likely to be hereditary and to be comparatively unaffected by external conditions.
Kelvin's father, without early opportunities, became professor of mathematics in Glasgow University, and his brother was professor of engineering there. Kelvin was appointed to the chair of natural philosophy at the age
then William Thomson, at the age of twenty-two, when just elected to the Chair of Natural Philosophy at Glasgow.